Loving Cha Gio (Recipe included!)

Loving Cha Gio (Recipe included!)

My memory of Vietnamese food goes as far back as pho and Banh mi, but I’ve never really been adventurous enough to try others. Vietnamese cuisine incorporates a lot of fresh vegetables, which I do not enjoy. Let’s just say that I love greens so much that I can’t bear to eat them πŸ˜‰

However, I recently discovered a Vietnamese food store in Taipei which serves really good fried Vietnamese spring rolls. Fried Vietnamese spring rolls, also known as Cha Gio, is a fried snack made of rice paper skin, stuffed with meat filling and then deep-fried.

Let’s begin by describing this dish. Unlike Chinese spring rolls which are wrapped in egg or flour-based skin, being wrapped in rice paper skin provides a chewy and crispy texture to the spring rolls. The filling consists of ground pork, shrimps, black fungus, mushroom and other garnish and because of the variety of ingredients, it has many textures in one bite. The dipping sauce consists of fish sauce, chopped nuts, lime/lemon juice, sugar, garlic and fresh chili – this combination complements the fried dish with a tangy and savoury aftertaste.

Cha Gio with rice noodles

So I’ve side-tracked a bit, but this dish is amazing, and I had it served with cold rice noodles at the Vietnamese food store (they diluted the sauce to ensure that it’s not too overpowering).

Sauce for the noodles; The actual sauce for Cha Gio is slightly thicker!

I’ve linked the store here, but this post is different – a friend shared a recipe and here’s something that you may want to try yourself!

Have fun and enjoy making it!

Popiah skin 24/7

Popiah skin 24/7

New York is known as the city that never sleeps, Neither does Citibank, according to its tagline. If you’re a popiah lover, you’d be glad to know that Fortune Food also operates 24/7.

My family loves to make our own popiah, especially for Chinese New Year. This year, I left it a little late — the day before CNY Eve to get the ingredients.

As usual, I headed to Ng Kian Seng Confectionery, my favourtite popiah skin store at Bedok South Block 17. To my horror, all the skin were sold out (guess others had the same idea).

I put on my best smile. OK, my mask was on but my eyes were sparkling. All in the hope of convincing the lady boss to somehow sell one of her reserved stash to me.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead she asked if I drove. It sounded like such a strange question but I said “yes”.

She went to rip a piece of receipt off her book and told me to head to that address to buy directly from her factory.

“What time does your factory open till today,” I asked.

She told me nonchalantly that it is open 24 hours a day.

Less than 10 minutes later, I arrived at Fortune Food at Gourmet East Kitchen in Bedok North.

As I walked towards the unit, a man asked me through the metal gate what I wanted. Just as I was preparing to take out my phone to snap a couple of shots of the place, he came out and handed me my order.

That was really fast — I was in and out within five minutes.

The 1kg of popiah skin was warm — a testament that it was freshly baked.

Next comes the taste test. While shaped and priced the same as the Bedok South shop, the skin was a little too refined and much chewier compared to what we were used to.

Overall, it’s good and most wouldn’t have noticed the difference. But, I was more used to having my popiah skin pockmarked with tiny air bubbles and a little thinner.

The plus point for this popiah skin is its constant availability. I paid S$20 per kg (think it’s the festive season surcharge) because its website pricing was S$18 per kg.

So, if you need popiah skin anytime, check out Fortune Food is at 3017 Bedok North Street 5 #01-13,Β Gourmet East Kitchen, Singapore 486121.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Price: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Jeju Kitchen – Tampines 1

Jeju Kitchen – Tampines 1

It’s the eve of Chinese New Year, and I thought I’d do a different post to celebrate the new year. Just before I returned to Taiwan, I visited Jeju Kitchen at Tampines 1. It was honestly really good – something I didn’t expect to find at a heartland mall.

Here’s a 27-second clip on what I had there:

Items I had there:

  1. Pork Volcano Fried Rice with CHEESE ($12.80) – A good mix of kimchi fried rice, bulgogi pork, cheese and egg over a sizzling hot plate. This is great for sharing and the fact that it was on a hot plate helped retain the heat of the food longer.

    Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
  2. Pork Kimchi Stew ($12.80) – Nice small chunks of pork within the stew – kimchi was nice and soft. The soup was good but I personally felt that it would have been nicer if it was slightly thicker – this is a good go-to simple kimchi stew!

    Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
  3. Injeolmi Bingsoo ($13.80) – This was the most expensive item we ordered and it was worth every dollar. An amazing bowl of goodness indeed. Soft mochi and a ton of injelomi powder. There were many items within this bowl that provided different textures. Highly recommend if you enjoy eating bean-based desserts.

    Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Jeju Kitchen has three outlets across Singapore – Waterway Point, Tampines 1 and Nex. I’d highly recommend going there for the desserts – it’s worth it!

Bak Kwa – which will you choose?

Bak Kwa – which will you choose?

A Chinese New Year must-have, good bak kwa is important! As a follow-up to our previous post on home-made bak kwa, here’s a review on two brands of bak kwa that may be of interest to you. 

Bee Cheng Hiang – Mini EZ Festive Collection ($32)

A household brand to almost all Singaporean households, Bee Cheng Hiang carries bak kwa that’s fresh from the grill as well as a wider variety of vacuum-packed bak kwa. In a gift set we received recently, there were four boxes of different types of bak kwa – and each bite-size piece was individually vacuum-packed. The four flavours in it are – Mini EZ Pork, Mini EZ Pork Chili, EZ Gold, and Mini EZ Chicken.

Here’s a quick reviews of the four: 

  1. Mini EZ Pork – Classic pork bak kwa that is nicely flavoured and chewy. It’s on a tougher side and is quite of a chew. 
  2. Mini EZ Pork Chili – Similar to the Mini EZ Pork but has a slight spice to it albeit almost negligible. Would recommend to those who like subtle spice. 
  3. EZ Gold – Taste more like Chinese sausage instead of bak kwa – will not recommend this at all as it’s tough and dry. 
  4. Mini EZ Chicken – Tastes almost exactly the same as the Mini EZ Pork and you definitely can’t tell that it’s chicken – it’s pretty good!

If there’s one thing Bee Cheng Hiang got right is the packaging. This gift set is very presentable and provides a sampler of its various products.

I’d highly recommend it to all who want to have controlled portions of bak kwa and would like to have a taste of the different products. However, all the vacuum-packed bak kwa lacked the smokey barbecue flavour. If you are looking for char-grilled, strong smokey flavour bak kwa, this may not suit your palette. 

Kim Hock Seng – Traditional Bak Kwa ($24 – $48)

It’s not a new kid on the block as the owner has been making bak kwa for the past 50 years! Situated along Geylang road, this store prides itself for its home-made bak kwa that is well-grilled over charcoal.

The packaging does not do justice to this delicious piece of goodness. In the box came many slices of barbecued bak kwa which was wrapped in paper – as we transferred the pork slices over to a separate container, I could see the juices (and lots of oil, of course) dripping to the bottom of the box.

Now for the best part – the taste: each slice of bak kwa was nice and chewy, with the bits of fat that we desire in a good bak kwa. The seasoning itself was just right – not too sweet, not too salty.  And the char was amazing – it wasn’t burnt and had that flavourful smokey flavour to it.

It is recommended to keep the bak Kwa in the fridge if you intend to eat it over a span of more than three days. You can heat the slices of bak kwa just before consumption! 

Verdict

Bee Cheng Hiang may win in its packaging, but Kim Hock Seng wins hands down. I’ve tried many brands of bak kwa in Singapore and I’ve got to say that Kim Hock Seng’s is comparable to Lim Chee Guan’s bak kwa (maybe even better!). 

Bee Cheng Hiang – Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘ Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘

Kim Hock Seng – Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Bak kwa: Buy or bake?

Bak kwa: Buy or bake?
Marinated meat ready to hit the oven

Bak kwa or pork jerky is a staple for Chinese New Year. And without fail, the price of this yummy honey-glazed grilled meat will increase as the festive season approaches.

The reason given by the sellers is that ingredients and manpower costs escalate during this period. Point taken but the increase can make the product prohibitively expensive at S$68 per kg from my favourite store. This high price is especially more of a concern in such turbulent times.

With that in mind and inspired by some posts on home-made bak kwa, I decided to check out some recipes on YouTube to explore the possibility of making my own.

After watching a few videos, the process looks surprisingly easy. My mind was made up as the risk seems low. After all, if the end product is not nice, it won’t cost me much either.

Virgin attempt

My attempt is based on this clip, which is really easy to follow. Plus, I’ve got all the ingredients listed in that clip at home, except for the minced pork.

All that’s needed to bake your own bak kwa

Having read in another recipe that they added five spice powder, I opted to include that too. Another online recipe suggested adding fermented tofu, which I didn’t because there’s none in my kitchen.

Once all of the above has been mixed together, it’s a matter of letting the marinated meat set for four hours. I left it overnight as I didn’t want to cook past midnight.

The baking process was relatively straightforward. Pop the meat into the oven, take it out to slather a layer of honey water, then baste both sides. You can find the process in the YouTube link mentioned above or any other clip online.

Looks like the real thing

Then comes the most important part — taste test. The entire family loves it! OK, there’s definitely room for improvement in terms of thickness and texture but the taste is just right. I had cut down on the sugar after sizing up the recommended sugar amount and the honey water coating.

Our conclusion is that we will skip buying and bake our own this year. With all the ingredients already available at home, I only had to buy the minced pork, which cost S$12 per kg. The total cost, minus labour, was about S$15.

Weighing this cost against the hefy price from the traditional shops, we will experiment with other ingredients and cooking processes further so that our family and friends can taste something different this Chinese New Year.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Texture: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Fancy Ban-mian!

Fancy Ban-mian!

It’s well-known that the Chinatown area has a ton of good food. Today, I managed to try out this particular noodle stall, 麡莊Mian Zhuang, at Hong Lim Food Centre that serves ban-mian (板青 also known as flat noodles) but with a twist. I first chanced upon this stall in an β€œOur Grandfather Story” video and was intrigued that the stall owners dared to venture out to start this hawker noodle stall despite having stable jobs previously.

A conventional noodle stall usually serves ban-mian with minced pork, an egg, some vegetables, and ikan bilis (anchovies). Occasionally, the stall will also serve it with sliced fish, but not many do.

However, this stall serves ban-mian with minced pork balls, ikan bilis, and something very different – fish maw! I had this combination and have to say that I enjoyed this combination. The soup was light and flavourful, the minced pork balls were fresh and gave more texture (as compared to just minced pork), the ikan bilis added the salty and crispy texture, and the fish maw was a delectable β€˜sponge’ that absorbed the soup well.

The chili that was served on the side was spicy and had a slight tangy flavour which paired very well with the bowl of ban-mian. The texture of the noodles was nice and chewy, and it was evident that it wasn’t factory-made – quite rare in recent times.

At S$4.50, I would definitely recommend this modestly fancy bowl of noodles to others.

Other combinations are also available including ban-mian with abalone clams (S$4.50/S$6.50), abalone (S$13.50) and prawns (S$4.50/S$6.50). The homemade chili can also be bought at S$5.50/bottle.

Do check Mian Zhuang out if you’re in the vicinity! It is located at Hong Lim Food Centre #01-51 and opened from 9am to 3pm (Monday-Saturday). Do note that it seems to run out of items later in the day so do head there early!

Verdict

Taste (especially with the chili): πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

O’ Coffee Club souffle pancake: More please

O’ Coffee Club souffle pancake: More please

It took just one bad experience in Osaka to ruin our image of the souffle pancake. My family had just landed in the city and headed to a strategically located mall where the joint was at. We were awed by the photo of that pancake and ordered — expecting it to taste just as great as it looked.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Neither the look nor the taste was as expected. In fact, it was awful.

Fast forward three years and my daughter and I were in our favourate haunt Jewel Changi Airport. We were looking to pack lunch home when she spotted a sign showing souffle pancake.

We have walked past that spot in the B2 food area countless times but somehow, haven’t seen this before. It’s an O’ Coffee Club kiosk serving just souffle pancakes.

Since she was game enough to give souffle pancakes a second chance (yes, she reminded me of the bad Osaka experience), I decided to join her.

“You have to wait 20 minutes” I was told while ordering. This was one day when I had the luxury of time so yes, we were prepared to wait.

The young lady behind the counter whisked the mix — first by machine, then by hand. She sliced the fruits and plated the pancake nicely for us.

OK, looks test passed. Now for the taste test.

We didn’t need the knife to cut through the pancake as it was so soft. One bite and yes, the souffle pancake has won redemption!

It is so good and here are our impressions:

  1. Nice and soft. All the shocking memories were erased when we dug in. This version is so soft and oh, so nice.
  2. Variety of fruits and sauces. Complementing the buttery but slightly bland pancake were the tanginess, sweetness and saltiness of the fruits and sauces. It’s like activating all the flavour senses in the tongue.
  3. More than enough for one. I’m not sure if the plate is intended for one person but with three pieces of pancakes and all the condiments, there’s more than enough for one person.
  4. Great effort and presentation. Seeing the young lady’s diligence and effort in preparing the dessert makes our hearts warm. And the presentation certainly makes it look more than its worth.
  5. Super value. At S$9.90 and big enough for you, it offers very good value for money.

Just as an indicator of how highly we rate the souffle pancake, we went there three times over a period of eight days. And the people we brought on subsequent visits all gave it the thumbs up.

The sad part is that come November 30, it will not longer be around in B2. The dessert may be added onto the O’ Coffee Club menu at its other Jewel outlet.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Hokkien mee fried till dry

Hokkien mee fried till dry
For those who love their Hokkien mee fried till dry

Fried Hokkien mee can be found all over Singapore. And they are fried in a variety of ways — wet, not so wet, sticky, and even dry.

I’ve tried a number of stalls and one that really got me going back again and again is the one at Golden Mile Food Centre. Hainan Hokkien Mee run by an elderly couple fries theirs the dry style.

A few visits turned up zilch as the food centre was either closed for washing or renovation. OK, OK, it’s my fault for not checking first but it’s usually because I happened to be in that area around those times.

When I read from a Facebook post about anpother similar style of Hokkien mee in Geylang, I simply had to check it out. It helps to have an alternative should I have a Hokkien mee fix.

Before sending my daughter to work, we popped by 134 Sims Avenue, which is just a few doors away from 126 Dim Sum Wen Dao Shi 揾到食, one of my family’s favourie dim sum joint.

Liang Ji Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee is owned by the son of the Hainan Hokkien Mee couple. The cooking style is similar but there are more offerings here with lobsters and lala versions.

Double thumbs up even without digging in yet!

We ordered the $5 entry level version (mine with pork belly only) and here’s my first impression.

  1. Great value at $5. For the price, the plate is large and more than enough for an average person.
  2. Tasty noodles. The dish is tasty and comes with more than enough ingredients to accompany every bit.
  3. The lard is to-die-for. If you want to eat here, forget about eating healthily because the lard is well worth the fats. It’s slightly saltish, oh so crunchy and left me longing for more. The good news is that if the generous portion is not enough, you can get another dollop at just 50 cents.
  4. Chilli has kick. The chilli is unlike some that are slightly sweet. This one is hot — the way I like my chilli.
  5. Not garlicky. I don’t like garlic but the way this is fried, it’s just like the Golden Mile version where you cannot really taste the garlic.
  6. Covnenient location with ample parking. There are lots of streetside parking along Sims Avenue and Lorongs 17 and 19, as well as the carpark at Lorong 19, which is just a short walk away.

If there’s one area of improvement, it’s perhaps that the noodles could be fried till it’s drier. Though it’s dry compared to others, it looks like the broth has not been totally absorbed — the noodles felt slightly sticky.

Having said that, it’s another place I’d visit again. If you’d like to check it out, the address and opening hours are below:

Liang Ji Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
134 Sim Avenue, Geylang Lorong 17, Singapore 387456
Opens Tuesday to Sunday from 11.30am to 10.00pm.

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Finding comfort food in a foreign land

Finding comfort food in a foreign land

What is your comfort food? For me, it’s chicken rice, especially when I’m far from home.

I recently visited BoboChacha, a Malaysian eatery near National Chengchi University, that supposedly serves decent Malaysian food. Considering the number of Asean students in the school, it wasn’t surprising to find a Malaysian eatery in the vicinity.

This humble-looking eatery has a pretty extensive menu which can be found here. Out of the long list, however, one dish caught my eye – Hainanese Chicken Rice. Singapore is known for its wonderful chicken rice, and boy, was I excited to try it out.

Upon the arrival of the dish, I realised a few things –

  1. The chicken rice chili looked very similar to what can be found back home and it tasted really similar too. It wasn’t very spicy but had a good mix of ginger and chili to which I enjoyed.
  2. The chicken rice served was not white rice and was indeed chicken rice! It’s not common to find chicken rice here, and white rice is usually served with chicken rice in Taiwan so I was surprised that the rice had the signature chicken rice aroma (think chicken oil and pandan leaves)
  3. The portion of the chicken was pretty (very) small. While this photo shows a full chicken drumstick, let’s just say that it was a very small drumstick with a good amount of bones in it. The chicken skin wasn’t chewy and was instead too soft. It tasted nothing like the usual chicken you’d get with your chicken rice but instead more like a chicken drumstick boiled in water. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t taste anything like Hainanese-style chicken. For 95 NTD (around S$4.50), it just didn’t feel worth it.
  4. The side dishes served were common Taiwanese side dishes – nothing like what’s served back home or even in Malaysia. I won’t comment too much on this because it seems like this is a common value-added service to keep up with the practice here. In Taiwan, it is common for eateries to provide two to three side dishes when a rice dish is served. I would have loved to see ikan bilis or sambal vegetables though!

I was pretty underwhelmed by this meal because this chicken rice didn’t taste like the chicken rice back home but I guess I’ve got to make do with it because I’m far from home – at least the chili was decent. It wasn’t a bad meal, but it just didn’t taste anything close to chicken rice back in Singapore. Will I come here for the chicken rice again? I certainly won’t. But I won’t mind trying out their other dishes!

Verdict

Taste: πŸ‘
Value: πŸ‘πŸ‘
Overall: πŸ‘

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Brownie is a word that stirs the mind and dispatches saliva to the mouth. So far, most of the brownies I’ve tasted in Singapore and during my travels have been good.

Pair a hot slice with ice cream and all the good feelings are released. Problems and worries just disappear, if only for a while.

I was gifted with a slab of brownie, lovingly made by Slice of Love, a home-based bakery in Singapore. The Fudge Brownie made of dark chocolate was packed with walnuts.

My family, including our Filipino expat, tried it and the verdict was unanimous — it’s great. It’s so rich and intense that a slice was enough for us — and most of us have a sweet tooth!

Here are four reasons why we think it’s worth the calories

  1. Rich and dense. The moment we sunk our teeth into it, we could feel just how decadently rich it was. And it was so dense — packed with dark chocolate fudge — that we stopped at just one inch cube each. It just means that we get to enjoy it again and again.
  2. Great bite feel. Inside the brownie are chunks of walnut that gives a great complementary bite feel. The soft crunch and bitter taste go so well with the slight sweetness of the brownie.
  3. Loaded with antioxidants. We think that using dark chocolate is a masterstroke. Besides not being too sweet, dark chocolate also packs more antioxidants.
  4. Nice packaging. The packaging speaks volumes with its simplicity (without been overwhelmingly loud) and practicality (the slab fits nicely in the box). Having it in brown is a wonderful way of creating a sense of expectation of what’s inside without exposing too much.

This is one fudge brownie we’d go for if we feel the urge for something rich and intense, or as a gft to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Actually, anytime is a good time to have a slice of this dessert.

Priced at S$37 (750g) and S$27 (480g), the fudge brownies are available for order at mysliceoflove@gmail.com.

Verdict: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘