Monday, September 22

Vietnamese caramelised pork belly (thit kho)

Over the weekend, we resurrected our cook-out, thanks to our lovely hosts Zhu and TF. It was a smaller-than-usual gathering but the laughs and good fooding just made me feel incredibly lucky to have such good friends. 

I made Vietnamese caramelised pork belly (thit kho) based on this recipe by Luke Nguyen. The only couple of tweaks I made were replacing caramel sauce with kecap manis and fresh coconut water with CocoMax coconut water. 

It was really good! I love the heady pungence from the fish sauce and garlic. I have so much respect for chefs who are more than just TV personalities. And if you are looking for a fresh spin off the usual kong bak pau, this is a recipe you need to have and hog.

Caramelised pork belly braised in young coconut juice (thit kho) 
Adapted from Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Tour

500g pork belly, sliced thinly
1 cup coconut water
4 tablespoons finely diced red Asian shallot
4 tablespoons finely diced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons fish sauce
4 teaspoon kecap manis
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or eyeball)
1 fresh chilli, sliced (optional)

  • In a bowl, combine salt, sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, caramel sauce and half of the red shallots and half of the diced garlic. Mix well until sugar dissolves. Coat the pork belly with the sauce and marinate for one hour. When marinated, drain the pork reserving the marinade sauce.
  • In a hot saucepan or clay pot, add oil, then fry the remaining red shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the pork belly and brown both sides, for about 1 minute per side. Now add the reserved marinade and stir well.
  • Add 1 cup of young coconut juice and bring to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half.
  • Turn off heat, then add black pepper and stir.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with sliced chilli.

Have a great week ahead, folks!

Friday, September 19

La Strada, Shaw Centre

I wanted to treat KW to a very very early birthday meal (PS at our age, it helps to spread out the birthday feasting) but for one reason or another, it is not easy to find a nice place for lunch on a Saturday. Most "nice" restaurants are closed for Saturday lunch to prepare for dinner service and well, we had a whole list of criteria.
  1. By "nice," I'm referring to somewhere that sits in between fine dining and smart casual. 
  2. Somewhere that is kid-friendly but not too scruffy (yes, we could have left the Munckin at home but I copped out last minute - blame it on working mum guilt). 
  3. Better if the restaurant was within the Orchard vicinity as that would fit in with our plans in the morning, which included an ultrasound and haircut. 
  4. Japanese wasn't an option as we just had Sushi Kuu the weekend before. 
  5. It had to be somewhere NEW.
Decisions... Decisions...

By a stroke of luck, I chanced upon La Strada, which checked off our checklist effortlessly. From fine dining to trattoria, the mood was family-friendly but far from childcare-chaotic. And to top it off, the food was pretty good too.

Though I was all prepared to go ala carte, I was impressed by their set lunch menu. Most restaurants offer really insipid items such as salads, stews and pastas but La Strada seemed to take pride in giving diners the Les Amis touch.

As the focaccia is only available during dinner, we had a simple tray of baguette to start with. Warm and crusty, paired with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Really hard to nitpick.

Starting off light, I chose the Hokkaido scallops as my starter. Half a dozen thinnish but supple scallops lay prettily on my plate, complimented by the sweet tanginess of rhubarb confit and crunchy endives.


The pork belly confit was a contender but I eventually went for the Black Angus striploin - can't say "no" when there's steak on the menu. Quite frankly, I was amused by the clumsy appearance but other than the tubby-ness, it was a comforting dish of meat, potatoes and carrots. Might sound plebeian but I relished every bite and the arugula pesto was a sprightly delight.

There weren't any alternatives for dessert but luckily I got something that was interesting enough. The orange fritters were a little dense but the whole ensemble with vanilla bean ice cream and plum marmalade was a merry dance through autumn.

While I went for the set, KW opted to go ala carte.

The portobello starter had his birth name stamped all over it. The portobello itself was fiercely battered and deep-fried, almost to the point of being burnt but to be honest, we didn't quite mind it. Plus half the battle was won with a beautifully cooked egg and crunchy bacon strips.

Saving the best for last! Creamily unctuous, I will continue to dream about the lobster risotto. Every spoonful of sweetish lobster and al dente risotto made me swoon with pleasure. It is incredibly indulgent yet utterly befitting of a celebration!

Not usually taken with Italian food (other than pizza), I could definitely see us returning to La Strada when we are feeling semi-indulgent.

Wednesday, September 17

A double from Daily Scoop, Chip Bee Gardens

A rare afternoon off took us to Chip Bee Gardens for some icy respite from the heat. Unfortunately, Sunday Folks only opens at 4pm on weekdays (ah, the life of millennials), so we headed to the ever dependable Daily Scoop.

KW was quick with his decision, Surprisingly Coconut that stood out as a light treat dotted with coconut nibblets (perhaps that was the surprise). I decided to play the field and after a few samples, a scoop of Berry Pie was picked mostly due to its yogurt-based tanginess and pleasing chunks of digestive pie crusts.

The waffle itself wasn't as crisp as I would have liked it to be, but it was a convenient vehicle for catching and mopping up melted ice cream.

Monday, September 15

The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza

The Sushi Bar at Far East Plaza is one of those places whose reputation precedes its name (the other I can think of would be Teppei). Everyone keeps harping on the horrendous queues and even my elder sister was a victim of it on at least two occasions. Thankfully, Zee and Diana were more than game to queue up 20 minutes before the restaurant opened and after the restaurant opened, I never saw a queue form that Saturday lunch hour.

The Salmon Aburi Sushi is a must-order at The Sushi Bar; not ordering it would be akin to visiting Paris and bypassing the Louvre. It was really good but then again, you can''t really go wrong with aburi sushi. I guess I expected more pizzazz, given all the hype. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was I blown away? Not at all.

Zee also mentioned the rolls seemed smaller, compared to when they were at their previous outlet. I am quite sure I would rather visit Sushi Tei the next time I need an aburi fix.

We initially thought one roll would be enough but hunger/greed got the better of us and we had an additional California Roll. Again, extremely pleasing but not something I would queue up for. 

My elder raved about this dish, Scallop Mentaiyaki, scallop carpaccio dressed lightly in soy sauce and drizzled with mentaiko mayonnaise. It was nice (ugh, I hate using this word) but I don't think I would give this dish a special shout-out anytime soon.

What really made me sit up (and scrape the dish clean) was the Pitan Tofu. I have had this at other Japanese restaurants but this was particularly yummy and the textural contrast between crab strips, diced century egg, century egg paste and tofu was moreishly pronounced.

The Inaniwa Udon and Salmon Belly Yaki were both pleasant but not particularly exciting.

My verdict on The Sushi Bar: Tasty? Yes. Overhyped? Definitely.

Friday, September 12

Celebrating Dad's birthday at Sushi Kuu, Palais Renaissance

Bet you can't tell from these pictures but my dad turns 65 today! 

Last Sunday, my elder sister and I treated the family to lunch at my current favourite higher-end restaurant, Sushi Kuu at Palais Renaissance. I usually hate getting gushy but this meal was exceptionally heartfelt as I'm a real chip off this old block and you can't imagine how indebted I feel towards my parents. 

Not a lot of food pictures to show for but it was a meal that my family thoroughly enjoyed and my indulgent chirashi was seriously fresh and hence, awesome. After the meal, I spent a good hour Googling chirashis in Singapore. Story of my life. 

My dad's barachirashi looked (and I am told tasted) amazing! I am looking for a good reason to head back soon to try the barachirashi he had (hint: wedding anniversary is a month away).  

And Russell shocks my dad with his appetite for cake

The Munckin and his mysterious minder

Speaking of the Munckin, my dad not-too-long-ago gave me a bit of advice on parenting and fortuitously, I can feel it beginning to take effect. I don’t think he ever intended it to have such a profound influence on my life but I will be forever grateful for his advice.

Thanks dad =)

Wednesday, September 10

Taste Paradise, Ion Orchard

I have long been a fan of Imperial Treasure's char siew sau but recently a contender has knocked them off the top spot and for good reason.

More often than not, we settle for a generic glaze and paltry fillings but the offering from Taste Paradise was in a league of its own; The combination of a crumbly crust hide and delectably sauce-y filling was simply unmatchable.

In fact, I was very impressed with Taste Paradise's dim sum over one Sunday family lunch. I've had Taste Paradise at least twice but third time sealed the deal.

Notable items included the char siew sau (of course!), siew mai, har gow, XO fried carrot cake and century egg porridge.

Tuesday, September 9

Mid-Autumn musings

I never understood people who were friends with their colleagues. To me, work is work - why would you want to spend every waking hour your lunch hours and weekends with people who are constantly in your face?

Of course, it came to everyone's surprise (especially my own) when I invited a bunch of them over for steamboat over the Mid-Autumn weekend. It was weird because we had a lot of fun and we ate till our bellies resembled the spherical object up in the sky. Oh gosh, I just MIGHT do this again.

Sub-conscience, "Who are you and what have you done with Yixiao?"