Chinese Charmers

Chinese Charmers

Even though the other countries of the world have so many tasty offerings, nothing hits the spot quite like sublime Chinese cuisine for this boy.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

The final dish we got to enjoy at @enjoyeatinghouse was the Hakka Claypot Hong Zhao Ji, aka red wine chicken ($28++). Red wine chicken isn’t actually cooked with red wine like merlot or cab sav, but it’s chicken cuts cooked in red glutinous rice wine which explains the notable red hue. According to the menu description, it’s known its potent flavour and health benefits that include better blood circulation and metabolism.⠀

I can’t testify to the health benefits part, but I can corroborate the potent flavour part. I prefer my food strongly flavoured, and even I found this to be excessively salty. It might be less overbearing when paired with a bowl of plain, unseasoned white rice, but eating it on its own may cause hypertension. However, this had the effect of impregnating the chicken with a truckload of sapid, delicious flavours right down to the bone. Bonus points for tremendously tender chicken. Even the normally dry chicken breasts were astonishingly juicy, and I had no problems polishing them off without any beverage assistance .⠀

I don’t remember if there was anything else in the claypot, but this Hong Zhao Ji urgently needs more ingredients in there. The easiest fix I can think of would be to add radish cubes into it while braising, which would leech out some of the sodium and exchange it for some sweetness. As it stands, the Hong Zhao Ji at Enjoy Eating House is a dish that needs more complexity to realise its incredible potential.⠀

For the last time for now, thank you for inviting me, @enjoyeatinghouse & @burpple!

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Plum Village’s Salt Baked Chicken definitely didn’t miss, even though I eventually found out that the chicken isn’t actually baked in salt anymore. To be fair to Plum Village, baking every chicken in salt just isn’t practical considering how many of these birds fly out of their kitchen on the daily.⠀

Instead, it’s generously seasoned with sand ginger powder and salt before being steamed, and this simple yet strangely sapid dish is superbly satisfying. The chicken is acceptably moist even at the breasts, and the sand ginger powder and salt have penetrated so deeply that every last meaty morsel is remarkably flavoursome. Heck, even the drippings rendered from the chicken are so savoury that it functions as a sauce of sorts.⠀

Sand ginger is actually dried & ground Kaempferia galangal, and it has a distinctly peppery flavour with only a mild note of ginger. This makes Plum Village’s (not) Salt Baked Chicken even more unique, as the sand ginger infuses the poultry with a distinct & unforgettably ambrosial flavour. It’s a simple dish, but it’s quite unbeatable especially with lots of rice on standby.

My experience with Hakka cuisine is limited to yong tau foo & thunder tea rice, so when I got an opportunity to sample authentic & traditional Hakka cuisine I couldn’t pass it up. Plum Village is reputed to be the oldest Hakka restaurant in Singapore, so they must be doing the cuisine justice. And if this plate of 算盘仔 (abacus seeds) is anything to go by, justice has been served.⠀

Of course, ‘abacus seeds’ are NOT the seeds of an abacus (bruh), but they are balls of rice flour & yam kneaded & rolled into the shape of one of those moving thingies on an abacus, which are known as seeds. These are rather rare in Singapore, and as such I will readily admit to this being the first time in my life that I’ve eaten abacus seeds. The most accurate way to describe this Hakka delicacy is to liken it to mochi but less gummy and slightly more dense.⠀

It’s steamed, so it’s healthy but on the bland side by itself. However, Plum Village take the steamed 算盘仔 and stir-fries it with garlic, seasoned minced pork, chunks of yam and what seem to be dried shrimp. The mince adds a satisfying bulkiness to the dish with the meatiness, and the seasoning rubs off excellently on the abacus seeds. The garlic adds its mustard-y, almost nutty & subtly sweet qualities, while the dried shrimp are there for that final touch of deep umami. The yam adds even more sweetness and a slight textural variance to the dish.⠀

For $9++, this deceptively simple sounding dish is dazzlingly delicious, and is ludicrously easy to eat too much of. No, eating these won’t improve your math, but they will multiply your happiness.

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My most awe-inspiring food discovery last year happened on the very last day of 2021. Yep, of course the most memorable meal of 2021 happens in the last few hours of the year. @milkfishsg ain’t particularly new, but it’s definitely impressive.⠀

Since it was New Year’s Eve, it was only right that I ball out and get the Premium Soup Set($32.80++) to close out the year. I subbed the usual milky fish soup for a tomato broth which turned out to be an outstanding move. The tomato broth hits every tastebud just right with its tangy sweet & sour flavour and its unbelievable umami, and every other sip of sapid soup elicited a thoroughly impressed ‘wow’ from me.⠀

The seafood and the lone square of minced pork were almost equally impressive too. All of the seafood was fantastically fresh, from the sweet solitary scallop to the fat fish chunks (red snapper, I believe), the sprightly single shrimp, and the charming clams. The abalone was a perfect match with the tangy soup, and even though the honest to god lobster was remarkably fresh, it was a touch overcooked & a little rubbery. Still, it wasn’t even close to being a deal breaker.⠀

I chose flour vermicelli (mian xian) as my carb of choice, and I recommend skipping it. There was too much flour, and it tasted chalky and generally pretty unpleasant. The accompanying Oriental Salad, on the other hand, was perfection. I wasn’t expecting to finish all of it, but I hoovered it all up without hesitation. I know there’s seaweed & bamboo shoots in there, but someone more experienced with Northern China cuisine is gonna have to tell me what else is in that irresistibly appetising salad.⠀

With seafood soup this good, Milkfish is gonna milk every last penny out of me. That, and the sterling service from the crew running the show.

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The final savoury course at @tunglokgroup was a smashing sensation, as all the ingredients of the unassuming Braised Rice Vermicelli with Seafood ($24++) were baptised in a scintillatingly seafood-y stock that made this dish a downright delight to devour.⠀

The seafood stock was milky despite the absolute absence of any dairy product in it. Yup, that is all nothing but the bounty of the ocean in there. It’s unbelievably umami and slightly sweet, and the body was stunningly thick despite its unassuming appearance.⠀

The felicitously fresh seafood salmagundi of clams, prawns & squid are poached to perfection, and the vermicelli does a decent job of soaking up that brilliant broth. Every mouthful you take is guaranteed to be bursting with fantastic flavours, and you won’t be able to get enough of that sapid seafood stock.

Thank you for hosting this Eatup, @tunglokgroup & @burpple!

@tunglokgroup original claim to fame is the certified Singaporean classic of chili crab, so it comes as absolutely no surprise that TungLok’s version is one of the quintessential chili crabs in town. If this piquant pic doesn’t get your appetite aroused & your saliva flowing, you’re on the wrong damn insta feed.⠀

Yes, there’s no photoshop here, that Sri Lankan crab is a true behemoth that’s concealing about two metric truckloads of fresh, firm, subtly sweet & salty crabmeat under its hardened exterior. These crabs are colossal, and the chili gravy is equally epic to match. It’s extremely eggy, which makes for a tastefully thick texture that’s essentially a sublimely savoury slurry of sumptuousness.⠀

Unlike the vast majority of chili crab gravies out there, TungLok’s gravy isn’t sweet, but is instead a little sharp to keep this hedonistic dish from becoming surfeiting. I personally enjoyed the little sliver of sharpness from the vinegar that’s been cooked into the chili gravy, which balances out the sweet & savoury and slightly spicy facets of the gravy and the crab perfectly. This slightly sharp, mildly spicy, subtly sweet & unforgettably umami gravy got my palate & salivary glands all fired up and crying with desire.⠀

Of course, not soaking some fantabulous fried mantous in this heavenly gravy is a capital crime in my jurisdiction. However, there’s so much of that glorious gravy that ten mantous weren’t even close to making a dent in that reservoir of gravy. I wanted to grab the entire bowl and guzzle it all, but that would’ve been a bit beyond the pale.⠀

As you all may already know from my previous post, burpple is offering a twenty percent discount off your food bill every Monday to Thursday at TungLok, so there really isn’t any legitimate excuse for you to rob yourself of this compelling chili crab. Discount or nah, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY BLUD!!⠀

I would like to take this time to extend my most sincere gratitude for allowing me the pleasure of consuming this chili crab, @tunglokgroup & @burpple. Love y’all 3000.

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Now we get to @tunglokgroup signature calling card: their colossal crabs. They have Sri Lankan (to be confirmed), Canadian Dungeness crabs, and Alaskan king crabs that can be cooked in six different ways. Today’s exhibit is a mammoth Dungeness crab that’s been stir fried in white pepper with leeks & fresh peppercorns.⠀

Sure, trying to get every morsel of meat out of the shell is tedious work, but think of it as a tasty treasure hunt instead of tedious labour. Dig & excavate hard enough, and you’ll be rewarded by felicitously fresh & supple crabmeat that’s naturally subtly sweet & salty.⠀

I was apprehensive about the white pepper sauce, as peppery sauces and I go together about as well as alcohol abstinence and I. I’m not sure if it’s a Pavlovian response, or it’s due to one of my many allergies that was packaged together with my asthma, but overly peppery sauces get me choking & my throat just squeezes shut. ⠀

None of that uncomfortable business here with TungLok’s white pepper sauce, fortunately. The white pepper is strong enough to assert itself, but gentle enough to allow the sweet crustacean’s natural flavours to be tasted & enjoyed. The salty, peppery sauce is rather thick, and it clings to the crabmeat for a massive dose of scintillating savouriness. The leviathan crab is mighty meaty too, so you can rest assured you’re getting more than your fair share of satisfaction.⠀

While the crabs are premium produce with a premium price tag of $9.80++ per hundred grams, it’s incredibly worth the splurge and it’s a definite must try. Better yet, #burpplebeyond has a twenty percent discount on your food bill from Mondays to Thursdays to palliate the pinch, so why not indulge a little?⠀

I truly appreciate the hospitality, @tunglokgroup & @burpple!

Deep fried prawns tossed in wasabi mayo are undeniably unctuous, which explains their ubiquity. As a self respecting seafood restaurant, of course @tunglokgroup does their own rendition of it, and it’s a pretty piquant one.⠀

At twenty eight bucks before the extra 17% custom, you can expect TungLok to plate up some outstanding wasabi prawns. The prawns are fine, fresh and absolutely humongous, and they are coated in a thin and delightfully crispy batter that keeps the fantastically fresh prawns juicy & splendidly springy during the deep frying process.⠀

The divinely deep fried prawns are thoroughly tossed & coated in the wonderful wasabi mayonnaise. The wasabi mayo is nicely nose tingling due to the heat of the wasabi, while the creamy smooth mayo soothed any inflamed tastebuds and added a charmingly creamy & rich texture to the dish. To stop this luscious dish from getting overbearingly rich, a heap of julienned cucumbers and some bits of fresh grapefruit adorn this divine dish.

Besides one for one deals on the salmon sashimi platter, #burpplebeyond and TungLok have collaborated to give you twenty percent off your food bill from Mondays to Thursdays! It’s a pretty good deal, so get it before it’s gone!⠀

Thank you for hosting me, @burpple & @tunglokgroup!

Tis’ been a long, long while since I’ve had some Peranakan food, and Old Bibik’s was on hand to very conveniently rectify that. They’ve got solo operators well covered with their weekday lunch specials, which comprise of the main, a dessert & a drink.⠀

Mutton rendang is a pretty rare sight, so when I saw that on the menu, I ordered it with little hesitation. I gotta say, I wish more people did mutton rendang as good as Old Bibik, because this was absolutely ambrosial. The redolent rendang paste is scintillatingly spicy & chock full of herbs & spices, and the strong heady aroma is quite the scent to behold.⠀

Flavour wise, it’s deeply savoury, with a heavy handed undertone of lemongrass duking it out with the other spices for prominence in the dish. It’s indecently inundated with a potpourri of spices, and they all come together to mask any gaminess the mutton possess. Speaking of the mutton, the meat was acceptably tender and each bite was fully flavoured by the sapid, spicy rendang curry/sauce.⠀

The achar on the side is surprisingly spicy & awesomely acidic. The pickled vegetables slice right through the salty, spicy rendang to provide a respite from the spicy, savoury onslaught, and is a great palate cleanser. The rice & egg were nice, but were doubtlessly & obviously second strings to the juggernaut that is the rendang.⠀

For $12.90 a set nett, it’s a delicious deal that should definitely be sampled a couple of times. For science, of course.

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If you thought Shabu-GO’s small salmon kaisen set was enough to feed this beast, then you don’t know me at all. Of course I’m adding on more meat! I gotta say, for just $5++, this serving of pork collar is quite a decent deal. The slices aren’t too thin, and they’re pretty sizeable too once you unfurl them. Yes, the meats are infinitely better value than the seafood. Stick with the animals that don’t swim, kids.⠀

The closest thing Shabu-GO have to a signature item is definitely their cuttlefish paste. Yes, that’s the white & orange lump in the bowl. They do have a couple of varieties of cuttlefish paste, but I gravitated towards the tobiko cuttlefish paste and traded six bucks for it. What a brilliant decision that was, even if I do say so myself.⠀

The cuttlefish had been minced & blended down into a smooth, thick paste, and all you gotta do is spoon a measure of it into the boiling soup to cook. Yeah, that’s all you gotta do. Even without the aid of your dipping sauce of choice, it’s actually pleasantly tasty. It’s clean, a little savoury, and delightfully bouncy. A true joy to chew, and the little tobiko that you cook in with the paste pop in your mouth with their signature burst of umami oomph.⠀

This six buck bowl will get you about six to seven lumps that are a little larger than a golf ball, and these lovely little lumps of cuttlefish will get you a whole lotta gluttonous gratification. Like I done said before, get a meat set, add on extra meat if you’re looking to unleash the beast, and get one of these cuttlefish paste thingies to uplift your mood.

Shabu-GO is yet another(!) Japanese hotpot place, but I ain’t really complaining. A lil’ competition never hurt anyone, plus variety IS the spice of life. Unfortunately they are NOT a buffet hotpot (booooooooo!), but they do have a few sets to get you started on your pothead adventures.⠀

I’m gonna cut to the chase and be brutally honest here: the salmon kaisen set ain’t really worth the $23.90++ price tag. Unless you’re a seafood diet extremist who refuses to eat anything that doesn’t breathe underwater, you’d get way better value from ordering Shabu-GO’s meat sets. I enjoyed the seafood, sure, but I was definitely left wanting a second helping.⠀

To Shabu-GO’s credit, the sashimi grade slices of salmon were fantastically fresh, while the pair of prawns & scallops were suitably sized & passably fresh. The most noteworthy item in this set is the chicken tsukune (chicken meatball) paste, which has a crisp, clean and slightly meaty taste profile even without any sauce.⠀

The singular element carrying the entire business on its back is definitely the Nourishing Ginseng Tonkotasu broth. Sure, it’s an additional four buck surcharge on top of any set, but this might just be one of the best returns on my investment ever. It’s essentially a delightfully fatty & redolently rich pork bone ramen broth that’s been turbocharged with ginseng. The lovechild that results from this heated mating is a scintillatingly sapid, full bodied & heartily herbal soup.⠀

Yes, it gets EVEN BETTER. Stew the radish & carrot in the soup, cook off some of your meats, and this broth is absolutely breathtaking. Forget chicken soup for the soul, Shabu-GO’s Nourishing Ginseng Tonkotsu is all any wounded soul needs to heal his/herself.

Ang Moh Noodle House isn’t quite as exotic as it sounds. No, there are no fancy schmancy fusion noodles here. In fact, Ang Moh Noodle House got its name purely because the founding hawker back in the day looked more European than Asian. Yep, that’s the backstory for the name, it really ain’t that deep.⠀

How this noodle house does have, however, are some titillating noods. Their claim to fame are the Signature Wanton Noodles, and this plate is only a medium(!) but god damn that portion size. No wonder I’m fat. Anyway, $4.80 nett for this schmedium plate gets you this PLUS a huge bowl of a half dozen wantons in soup. I normally prefer hor fun (flat rice noodles) to this thin yellow noodles, but Ang Moh convinced me to be a little more open minded with the absolute quality of these noods.⠀

They were stunningly QQ (al dente) and the normal mild alkaline tang had been brilliantly blanched out of these noodles. These noodles were flavoured by a sapid salmagundi of soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, chili sauce, and they were delightful to devour. The wantons were all bang average, industry standard stuff, but they were still perfectly passable.⠀

However, the thing that made my heart (and palate) sing is the char siew. Yes, it may have been bought already cooked off an external supplier, but it’s done right. The slice thickness was ideal, and the bbq pork possessed a delicious yet modest fatty streak running through it all. Yessir, this char siew is felicitously juicy & tastefully tender, and it tastes pretty damn good too. Fellas, forget all those old school wanton mees with trash char siew. It’s 2021, the future is now, old man.⠀

While Ang Moh’s wanton mee can’t quite match up to the awesomeness that is Ah Wing’s over at Farrer Road, it comes commendably close. These noods are still indubitably lipsmacking, and if they maintain the stellar standard of their wanton noodles I’m gonna weigh an extra one ton soon.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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