O for Usman

The awesome staff at Usman

As part of my first week’s adventures in Singapore I was taken to Little India, the main reason being to visit the Mustafa Centre, which is kind of like a mall but X10 IN AWESOMENESS. Little India is totally rad all round. I got some sweet silk shirts for $10 and saw a bunch of cool stuff that was so cool I can’t even tell you about it. What I can tell you is to go to Usman. This cracking corner restaurant is a must-visit for newcomers and regulars alike. Sade the waiter recommended the chicken jalfrezi for me, Jacqui got the paneer and there were oice tees all round.

Sizzle plate

Mine came on a sizzling plate billowing terrifying plumes of steam. My old workplace used to do a cracking-good jalfrezi but this blew it out of the water. It was really light and clean-tasting – “it’s almost like a Chinese stir-fry” I exclaimed with a satisfied smile. This is until I asked the chef (who was sitting next to us) where the dish was from.

“China”, he said.

Jacqui's paneer

Trust me to order the only Chinese dish in a curry house.

It came with the best garlic naan I’ve tasted and some excellent conversation from the staff.

The staff are keen to spin a naan

So on your next sojoun to Mustafa, stop in at Usman. Just don’t buy any silk shirts on the way. They’re mine.

Kieran

Home cooking – marinated beef stir-fry

My first visit to the wet market was an eye-opener. It was fish day, apparently, so there were all sorts of aquatic animals on display, dead and alive. A bare-chested man was chopping the heads off wriggling frogs and deftly skinning them in one go with a pair of pliers. He was surrounded by buckets of live eels. There were plenty of other weird fish on display but we skipped that and went to the beef section, where a jovial man opened up a huge side (is it side? I’m no butcher) of rump and expertly cut us off two big chunks off rump, sliced them into stir-friable pieces and vacuum-sealed them. All for $16/kilo. It. was. awesome.

Possible more awesome was the little old lady who told us the best way to cook it – marinate in ginger, sesame oil and oyster sauce and stir-fry.

After picking up some mung beans and bok choy, Jacqui and I went home and followed the woman’s instructions. The end result was excellent. I always wanted to make something like this in New Zealand but never had basic ingredients like sesame oil or oyster sauce.

Kieran

 

 

 

Pie ora

B & E P

Bacon & Egg & Pastry.

Bacon & Egg Pie.

Bacon & Egg Pie baked by Lauren and shared at the National Museum of Singapore’s outdoor cinema with French, Spanish, Slovakian, Filipino, Scottish, American, Australian and Kiwi friends gathered to celebrate the birth of David.

The pie has gone.

But its memory lives forever.

Recipe: Bacon and egg in pastry. Bake. Share.

Borderline Adventure

This week has been a big one for travel foodism at the whare. The newest addition to Kai Ora’s team Kieran Nash barely had time to sample the buttery magic of kaya toast and kopi at our local joint before he was whisked North to Kuala Lumpur for some crunchy, slurpy, spicy and oh-so-comforting MEE GORENG. This, we found at a gem of a hawker called Instant Restaurant run by a most charismatic and hospitable lady named Ping and her elderly mother….

Then we soaked up some five star opulence.

We are pretty confident that in just 24 hours we managed to scout out the best, worst, cheapest and most extravagant feasts in the city.

Splurging on a night at the Shangri La, KL (made possible through agoda.com) meant that we were treated to a luxury leisure complex (above) and the best darned buffet breakfast we had ever tried (below: round one = roti + best darned chicken and mushroom curries in the universe). Thanks to a few travel junkets in our former lives as journalists in New Zealand, we had both sampled some of the most celebrated hotel buffets in Australia, America and China. Perhaps it was because we were paying for ourselves this time that it was all the more exciting, but with everything from delicate curries to hearty soups to European pastries and cheeses to tropical fruits and juices, the spread left our eyes watering with desire and our digestive organs working in overdrive.



Thank goodness for the tennis court.

Anyway, we felt it more than made up for our average-to-poor dinner the night before, which looked like this…

(clay pot with dubious meat and a raw egg)

…bought from a hawker in the back streets of KL’s Chinatown.

Feeling a little bloated and less-adventurous after the ridiculous buffet breakfast we decided to return to Ping in the afternoon for a spot of this…

(that would be the most refreshingly delicious watermelon juice in the universe).

…before boarding our bus back to our new home (is)land.

A fleeting holiday, but we meant it when we told Ping we would be seeing her again soon. In our absence, we suggest you pay her a visit. She’s the very friendly lady in the hawker opposite the main entrance of the crazy six storey electronics mall Low Yat Plaza, near Jalan Bukit Bintang. Instant Satisfaction, Guaranteed (with none of the awkwardness of five star finery).

Let Me Eat Cake

So I’m supposed to be laying off the sugar…five weeks of eating my way around Singapore and the pants aren’t quite as loose as they once were. Anywho, my willpower failed me today when, while out shopping for washing powder, I walked past a stack of fresh pandan cakes.

Now I’m not usually a fan of cakes in general, and sponges would sit among my least favourite sweet treats, but there’s something about this melt-in-your-mouth, fluffy green sponge with well-baked edges and gooey-iced center that I simply can not get enough of. It’s not too sweet, but not laced with salt or soy or any other rogue SE Asian flavourings either.

I’m not sure how authentic my street-bought pandan (above) was (I suspect it was largely artificially coloured), but it originally gets its colouring from the chorophyl in the leaf juice of the Pandanus amaryllifolius plant, otherwise known as pandan. As a bit of trivia, the leaves are also used as a repellent against cockroaches…how useful, thanks wikipedia.org. I like to think my feast will protect “the whare” (our apartment) from a nasty infestation. Nom nom nom.

Champagne with your Sunday brunch! (A prelude)

Now for something a little bit more snooty.

Since Joe arrived in Singapore in March, we have been to three different champagne brunch feasts with friends. While this is undeniably indulgent (both for stomach and wallet) it’s important only because it now makes us experts on which are the best. This is gluttonous necessary as we have two more opportunities in the next few months to do this all over again – first, when Kieran (Jacqui’s other half) shimmies on over from NZ this weekend, and secondly when Joseph’s mum and stepdad come a-calling in November.

For those of you who don’t know, a champagne brunch is something offered by most upmarket hotels in Singapore, where you pay a flat fee for some seriously devine all-you-can-eat food AND free flow champagne. Yes. Free. Flow. They usually run from 11am-4pm and you arrive sober and dressed to the nines… but inevitably leave looking more trashy than flashy after far too much of this:

 So far, we have been to the brunch at the St Regis (roughly $180++ per head), the Sentosa Resort & Spa Hotel on Sentosa Island ($146++ per head) and the Hyatt (roughly $160++ per head). Holy **** I just added that up and that is roughly $1000 on three meals. Shite.

Well then, I guess this blog is suddenly more of an appreciation of the brunch food we have devoured, and less of a prelude to the champagne brunches that will be. Oh alright, I suppose I can do ONE more… all in the name of research. Watch this space.

mezza9, Grand Hyatt Singapore (10 Scotts Rd, +65 6738 1234): HUGE room. Incredible sushi and dumpling spread. Also a fantastic array of cheeses, cold cuts and bread. The chocolate fountain was a nice touch and the strawberries were spot on. Totally devoured everything imaginable, so everything has blurred into one. Champagne: Can’t remember (whoops). Bubbles top-up rating: 7/10. They were busy, so we had to ask them a few times for refills. It all got messy, but it was all something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brasserie Les Saveurs, St Regis (29 Tanglin Rd, +65 650 66888): Book early, the brunch area is smaller than the others and fills up quick. Less appropriate for children. Different in that you can pick a main meal from the menu in addition to your 390857924629576 oysters and lobster tails (Joseph….). Unlimited numbers of various cocktails (lychee martinis spring to mind) are also included in the cost. Waiters bring around bite-sized delights at your beck and call. Champage: Moet & Chandon. Bubbles top-up rating: 9/10 (as in, they topped up our drinks after one sip). Food delights such as this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Terrace, Sentosa Resort & Spa Hotel (2 Bukit Manis Rd, Sentosa) +65 6371 1414: Make sure you get a good seat. We were on a big table quite far away from the buffet. This meant a wibbly wobbly walk for those of us in heels to get to the food, but also that the waiters took a while to make it to us to top up our drinks. We’re fast drinkers. We rated the Japanese spread here, as well as the lush roast meats section. Drool. Champagne: Duval Leroy. Bubbles top-up rate: 5/10.

No photos of this one (sorry) but here’s an image from the interwebs so it doesn’t feel left out:

Can you say, OM NOM NOM?

Blog readers: Any tips on where to go next, if our budget will allow it?

Acquired Taste

I walk through a vibrant market place located under this very distinctive building, People’s Park Complex, almost every day.

I like to try one new thing each time. Grass jelly (which deserves its own post one day soon. I. am. obsessed), pandan cake, red bean pastie…

I usually hover at the durian pancake vendor and then walk on. Durian, for readers outside Asia, is a very large, very heavy, very spiky, very stringy, very stinky fruit that looks like this:Like guns, it can not be taken on trains. Like cheese, it is very expensive.

I’ve seen the stinky, sticky delicacy in icecream and smoothies, but, never, until now, as a stinky, sticky pikelet. Today, curiosity got the better of me. I had to try. And while I was at it, I grabbed myself a cup of “antioxidant rich” red bean milk from the same vendor.

Behold, my mini feast.

Verdict? Well, like many things that are oh, so very good for you, such as wheatgrass and puer tea, red bean milk doesn’t exactly ravish your senses. I like soy bean drinks, but I figure the ones I usually drink have more sugar than bean in them. This tasted kind of like a cross between warm tofu soup and bean salad. I couldn’t get through the whole thing, but I’m sure it did wonders for at least a patch of my liver and skin. I definitely needed the mouth-puckering tangy/sweetness of the durian pancakes afterwards. And while I probably won’t develop a craving for the gooey treats either, I can appreciate why there is a stall dedicated to them. Now I can walk past in peace, and move on to the store selling dried pig parts. Oink.