Saturday, October 29, 2011

CP Biggest Eater: More Shrimp Wantons, More!

Much apologies for the lack of updates! I have been busy with a module report and I'm glad that it has finally been submitted. A small break from all the statutes and regulations to write on something a lot more fun!

I always thought that I was a quick eater. From gobbling down god-knows-what during army to meet the next timeline to the girlfriend complaining that I always rush during meals, I feel quite positive with my eating speed. So when the CP Biggest Eater Contest returned for the 2nd time this year, I quickly jump at the chance to test myself! The mission? Eat a minimum of 30 CP shrimp wantons in 5 minutes!

Pulling a buddy along to join the contest, we turned up for the heats at Orchard Central and had only another young fellow to join us for our timeslot. The curious mum and ever-supportive girlfriend were there to cheer us on too! A brief tease by the MC and we were off!

Photo Courtesy of CP Foods

We were each given a tray of small cups, each holding two shrimp wantons. It was only when I put the first one in my mouth that I realised how dry they were! Served warm (thankfully), the skin kind of stuck together, turned mushy after a few chews and was rather difficult to swallow.

Nonetheless, CP's wantons are really quality stuff as each one consisted of a whole shrimp with crunchy texture and distinct flavour. I was rather enjoying my first few wantons slowly until I noticed the time. Damn, a minute has passed already!

Then it became a systematic process. Pop, chew, drink, swallow, and grin at my buddy. The tastebuds no longer worked after awhile. I totally didn't bother to count how many have I eaten and the only thing I noted was the remaining time. The girlfriend caught us in plenty of unglam shots looking like toads and hamsters!

And the time was up! I thought to myself, okay, I should be quite safe huh? That felt like a lot.

"Daniel, you have eaten 15 cups, so that's exactly 30! You have passed to collect our goodie bag! Congrats!"

Wah, that was close! So I'm definitely nowhere near a fast eater, but the experience was outrageously fun and absolutely worth it! Then again, I can still claim to be a big eater, as I went for a proper lunch at Imperial Treasure HK Cafe immediately after. Yup you read that right!

And here's the content of the little cooler bag they gave! I haven't eaten any of them yet, but they sure look tempting!

Anybody keen to join me next year? Need to start training already!

A little video from CP. 1 second of fame at 0:53!

Taken with Canon 5D Mark II and HTC Sensation
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jia Xiang Kolo Mee: Looks Like Instant, Only Way Better!

I don't quite get it when I see people ordering instant noodles outside, especially in HK cafes. 8 dollars plus for Nissin noodles with two slices of luncheon meat and a egg? Pay me half the price and I can give you double the volume while still making a profit, seriously. So when I first heard of Jia Xiang Kolo Mee selling noodles of instant noodles texture, I thought I will never visit the place. Man, I was so so wrong!

First of all, my huge misconception that if it tastes like instant noodles means it is instant noodles. In fact, the famous dish from Sarawak (Kuching City) consists of full-egg noodles that is flash-boiled before serving. The Jia Xiang brand has been rather popular in Singapore in the recent years, adopting a fuss-free concept where diners order at the counters and wait for it to be delivered to your table. I heard that the noodles are delivered fresh from Sarawak daily!

Sambal Chilli

I did a little research and found that the original Sarawak kolo mee is not served with sambal chilli. While adapting to Singaporeans' tastebud, they didn't do a shabby job as it was quite fragrant and spicy on the tongue.

Jia Xiang Noodles ($6.40)

What first struck me was their very good blend of sauce. The mixture of soy sauce and lard was delightfully smooth and savoury, coating the noodles really well. It was further topped with generous slices of char siew, minced pork and very stuffed prawn dumplings. Not forgetting about the sinful lard bits that distinguished awesome noodles from good ones!

If you have noticed, there are two types of kolo mee. One is the thin, round type (ala instant look-alike) and the other is a flat type that resembles mee pok. Having tried both, I still prefer the former for its springy texture and firmer bite as the latter tend to be more easily overcooked.

Gold Jia Xiang Noodles ($9.50)

Thanks to Groupon (1 for 1 deal!), I finally tried the deluxe version that came with slices of abalone. Well, unless you are a die-hard fan of the sea snails, I really don't see a need to fork out additional 3 bucks for these.

Fish Fillet Noodles ($6.40)

As the girlfriend loves her fish, this became her standard order at Jia Xiang. While it is just your usual mass produced, frozen-packed stuff, the fish fillets are always deep-fried upon order, served hot and crispy without oil oozling from within.

I have never been to Sarawak so there's no way I could tell Jia Xiang's authenticity, neither have I tried other brands (are there any?) of kolo mee in Singapore for a comparison. But Jia Xiang's version suits me just fine, a comfort bowl of lard-drizzled, filling noodles in the comfort of air con. A regular haunt for me now!

Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee
Outlets Islandwide

Taken with Nikon D70
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Michelangelo's: Restaurant Week 2011!

Its that time of the year again! My first encounter with Restaurant Week was in 2009, where my dinner at The Nautilus Project didn't quite impress. Learning a lesson to stick with well-established restaurants, I booked a dinner for two at Michelangelo's this time!

Located in the little enclave of Chip Bee Gardens, I have heard much good things about Michelangelo's and their Italian dishes over the years. With its alfresco dining area bigger than its indoor seatings, it will be better to state your preference lest you end up feeling sticky in our humid weather. A quick glance at the $35++ set dinner to choose our mains, then we were good to go!

Complimentary Bread, Homemade Lobster Bisque

Nothing fanciful about the bread roll, but the warm and fluffy texture was delightful to munch on anyway. I think one of the dips was tuna-based, but somehow I was more keen on the quality of their balsamic vinegar.

The soup, on the other hand, was simply outstanding. Served in a piccolo-sized mug, its rich crustacean flavour was a joy to sip on as I nibbled on the occasional lumps of sweet crabmeat. Wished the mug was bigger, much bigger!

Poached Barramunda Fillets, Braised Beef Short Ribs

Served in horseradish cream sauce and on a bed of spinach, the fillets were succulent and fresh-tasting, though they didn't have the silken soft texture of cod fish that the girlfriend would have preferred.

My serving of sliced short ribs was well done too; very tender with little strips of prized fats within, and had a robust beefy flavour that was nicely complemented by red wine sauce. My only gripe? The 6 miniature slices were gone in a jiffy!


A classic Italian dessert to end the meal. I would personally prefer it to be stronger in alcohol content with a more moist texture. Otherwise, it really was pretty good for the sweet tooth!

A slight issue with service: Although we already knew that our dining slot was from 6pm to 8pm, I thought it was rather impolite of them to show me the bill at 7:30pm without me even asking for it. I was pretty sure that the couple ordering ala-carte at the next table did not have a time limit, nor were given the same bill treatment. Oh well, discounts do come at a price.

Bill for two was $81.90 after taxes. The dining quality for this year definitely improved from the last experience and despite the service glitch, I'm glad that Restaurant Week allowed me to try out a new place on a limited budget. Going back for ala-carte? Very likely!

Blk 44 Jalan Merah Saga
#01-60 Chip Bee Gardens
Tel: 6475 9069

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, October 14, 2011

Marina Barrage: Picnic Dating!

Singapore is a boring place to date, seriously. Malls are grossly repetitive, cinemas are overcrowded and islands/hills are limited in number to explore. Thank goodness that I can still find quaint, little cafes to laze the afternoons away, but there is still a limited amount of caffeine I can take.

As the girlfriend and I pondered on something to do for the weekend, we realised there's one thing (two, in fact) that we had never done as a couple: Picnicking and kite-flying! And the best place (before Gardens By The Bay springs up anyway) to do that? Marina Barrage!

Maybe because it was not really that accessible, the crowd at the Barrage's rooftop was much lesser than I have expected, as pockets of people formed little gatherings while children gleefully ran around the large open area. Pretty kites dotted the skyline too!

Since it was a picnic, how could we do without a picnic basket? I was glad that I finally put the baskets that my mum saved from hampers to good use!

And so the brunch for two included:

Pringles - "Once you pop, you just can't stop!" I agree wholeheartedly.
Vita Lemon Tea - Nothing but the best ones that I can get my hands on.
Plain Water - Hydrate yourself under that sun!
Tissue - You don't expect me to pluck off grass and wipe my mouth, do you.
Homemade Foccacia Sandwiches - Customised!
Sushi - Simply because its easy to eat.
Fruits - Girlfriend insisted on being healthy.
Chocolate Tart - For the sweet tooth!

The girlfriend loves tuna while I insist on luncheon meat and cheese. Fine, lets have both! Chilli tuna for that extra kick, while melted cheese was the perfect match for a thick slab of pan-fried SPAM. Sandwiched between Gardania's foccacia loaf that smelt so good of herbs, we cleared them all!

I think all supermarkets' pre-packed sushi taste about the same, but I tend to favour Cold Storage as their value packs seem to hold all the ones that I wanted. Curbed my carbo needs!

There was this relatively new tart booth, JollyBell, at Bugis Junction basement, so I grabbed one of the cute Almond Chocolate tarts on my way out. Turned out to be a pretty good bet as the buttery crust was filled with smooth chocolate and chunks of almond. Shall try out the other flavours!

After clearing out the entire basket, its time to fly some kite! After many amateurish attempts, we finally got it up in the sky and if you can see, the tiny triangular one at the top right belonged to us. Loved how this shot turned out!

The girlfriend was all smiles for the camera, while I was simply a lazy kite-flier. Why stand when you can sit?

So where will you go with your boy/girl this weekend? If you haven't done a picnic or flew kites, give it some thought!

Marina Barrage
8 Marina Gardens Drive
Note: The shuttle bus service takes ages to come so if you are really impatient, a couple of bucks more for taxi won't hurt!

Taken with Nikon D70
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nakhon Kitchen: Outstanding Thai Fare In The Heartlands!

Its nice to have friends who follow your blog and upon reading a certain entry, could proudly tell you "I know somewhere better!". That kind of affirmation just makes me more curious to check out their recommendations. After hearing about my Thai cuisine encounters, the girlfriend's group classmates confidently told me: "Nakhon is better!"

Located among the heartland estates of Kovan, Nakhon Kitchen serves up fuss-free Thai food in a relaxed, come-in-flip-flops setting. Not sure if they can take reservations, but the queue will be maddeningly long no matter what time you come for dinner. Thankfully, our table of eight didn't have to wait too much, while food was served in a jiffy as our orders were already taken in the queue.

By the way, I was particularly impressed by their service and hygiene standards. Whipping tables with detergent after the previous customers have left, serving free drinking water without being asked to, replenishing little rattan baskets of tissue paper for your comfort. Remarkable!

Pandan Leaves Chicken ($6.00)

"You got to try the pandan chicken! Its darn shiok!" One of the friends exclaimed.

And man, he was right! I hardly get excited over the large bird (except maybe in HK) but this was exceptional. The chunky bites of boneless meat and fatty skin were very well-marinated, all the juices were sealed in by the leaves and had a smokey taste to it. A must-order!

Homemade Thai Prawn Cakes ($12.00)

If you looked at the price and serving alone, you might probably feel a slight pinch for your wallet, but one bite of it would immediately make you see the light. There was virtually nothing else under that crumb coating apart from an abundance of crunchy minced prawn, full of freshness that went so well with a dip of Thai chilli sauce. You get what you paid for!

Deep Fried Grouper with Sweet and Sour Sauce ($22.00), Kang Kong Belachan ($6.00)

For whole fishes, I have always been an advocate of steaming over any other methods, so I couldn't say much about this. And we really love our Kangkong, eh? Thankfully it didn't overwhelm me with spiciness.

Tom Yam Seafood Clear Soup ($6.00), Tom Ka Seafood Soup with Coconut Milk ($6.00)

Their famed soups, however, didn't leave too much impression on me. Not sure if they had toned it down for local tastebuds, the clear one could have been more tangy and could pack a stronger punch, while I thought the milk-iness of the other one overshadowed every other flavours.

Pineapple Curry with Mussels ($8.00), Green Curry Chicken ($8.00)

Red, green and yellow curry, been there done that. But pineapple curry was definitely a first for me! The fruity, sourness of pineapple worked surprisingly well with curry spices, while the mussels were thankfully saved from being rubbery and tasteless. Interesting!

Again, I thought the chef might have a scoop too many of coconut milk here, as it was creamier than I would have preferred. Still nice to go with rice though!

Pineapple Fried Rice ($6.00), Black Olive Fried Rice with Minced Chicken ($6.00)

No fanciful pineapple husk to be held in, but the sweet-tasting rice sure did its job with a generous dollop of pork floss. The other one had the same well-fried, grainy consistency with the fragrance and taste of black olives. Why choose one when you can have both!

Phad Thai Noodles ($5.00), Phad Thai Tang Hoon ($6.00)

Guess what, this actually did invoke some memories of Bangkok! Slightly sweetened with good "wok-hei" flavours, the narrow strips of springy hor fun was fried with diced yellow beancurd and served with crushed peanuts at the side. No doubt the real deal!

The variant of thin glass noodles was nothing short of excellent as well, with the chewy, translucent noodles dyed to brownness and absorbing the juices nicely. I could make this my daily staple!

Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk ($5.00), Red Ruby ($3.00)

Dessert choices were relatively limited here. The mango had thoroughly ripened and maintained a good harden texture, but the glutinous rice was a nono in its lumpy form. Then again, I have yet to find good, grainy glutinous rice in Singapore. The other was a hot favourite among the friends, icy cold and nicely sweetened to wash down all that greasiness!

With no additional GST and service charges to menu pricing, the 8 of us paid less than $25 each for a meal that left us satisfied and filled to the brim. Nakhon Kitchen offered an affordable and authentic Thai experience that was closed to its roots, though there were a few minor misses that could be overlooked. Nakhon is better? You bet!

Nakhon Kitchen
212 Hougang Street 21
Tel: 6286 8785
Note: They have another branch at 136, Bedok North Ave 3 #01-166!

Taken with Nikon D70