Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yet Con

What if I told you the Hainanese chicken rice you've been eating all along, isn't really Hainanese at all?

What if I told you that real "Hainanese chicken rice" isn't that nice at all but rather, lacks the robust flavour you have grown accustomed to?

Don't go throwing chicken rice balls at me now. Well, what do I know? Qin and her family is of Hainanese descendant and her brother tells me that their chicken rice is dry, sauceless, and the chicken is really, really kampung tasting. Not that I'm complaining because I get to eat really good, tasty chicken rice here in sunny Singapore everyday.

If you want to get a taste of true authentic, Hainanese chicken rice though, get off your butt and visit this place called Yet Con, the only authentic Hainanese restaurant left in Singapore located in Purvis street.

In fact, their chicken although sauceless, isn't as scary as it sounds. It's got a nice chicken-y taste and is quite succulent in terms of juiciness and texture.

But why would you want to go through that much trouble just to taste some chicken rice? Well, I'll give you two more reasons; their tze char and steamboat.

Steamboat seems to be really popular over there and having tried it before, I'll say it's fairly good.

I'll be able to recommend a few tze char dishes though.

Stir-fry beef with kailan. Slightly tender pieces of beef with a robust sauce to rely on. Always something I'll order here.

Hainanese chap chye isn't like the sloggy and slimy and mushy chap chye you find in economic rice stalls. Here, it comes with a crunch, a guarantee of it's freshness. Plus, who needs sauces that reek of dried shrimps to make a good dish? Here, it's refreshing but flavourful and comes with seafood and meat, all the more you should get it.

Even if you have a distaste for all of the above, this is what you should be here for. Hainanese pork chops. Even if you don't take pork, comon try a bite, sometimes you need to live a little ya know?

MMMMMMMMMMmmmmm mmm! It's crispy and SO DAMN TENDER. Shockingly true, and not what I expected. It comes doused with a tomato based sweet n' sour sauce which is surprisingly, not tomato-ey at all. It's dark brownish rather, a testament to the other oriental sauces they add in to obtain the slightly sweet savoury taste with a nice tang from a good dash of vinegar.

So you don't wanna take a bite at all. Eat the potatoes that come with the dish, it's super duper nicely pan fried and have that old school taste. Oh, but what a waste.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

1 month

I think I've slightly neglected my blog for the past week, and if you're one of those screaming "Why Sam?!?!?!", then please, hear me out my friend.

25th June is exactly one more month before I leave Singapore. For good? I don't know yet but well, most probably yes. One thing is for sure though, I'll be going to Perth to get my degree in Physiotherapy which will set me back four years. But damn I'm glad that I can go home finally and don't have to take that army shit anymore.

So I've been pretty busy, packing my stuff, meeting old friends and settling my student enrolment procedures, not to mention eating anything I've been craving for (most of which is durian). Therefore, I don't reaaally have the time to update this blog but I promise I will try! Well, at least try to post as much as I can during this last four weeks.

I'd like to thank you guys though, for regularly checking back and keeping my hits in the 600s despite my lack of post.

Cya soon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Boon's Goreng Pisang

So I had my plate of mouth-watering duck rice in front of me and was partly successful trying to savor every bite of it. Why then, did my eyes kept darting to my left and my taste buds simply couldn't focus on the meal? The answer is pretty simple actually, since I was seated beside Boon's Goreng Pisang, a widely popular stall located in Long House Food Centre and situated just beside Soon Kee's duck rice stall.

Densely decorated with an abundance bananas as any acclaimed goreng pisang stall would, Boon's Goreng Pisang churns out the crispiest batter and the softest insides you can ever get.

For starters, get the oh-so-crispy fried banana which comes in three different sizes which makes it a little more convenient for those who place a little more emphasis on calories. The caramelized insides are simply gorgeous.

Other items worth mentioning are the green bean and tapioca fritters; both of which contain mashed-up goodness inside of them. Aptly sweetened at the right level, the way the crispy batter gives way to the slightly powdery insides makes the added calories simply worthwhile.

Or why not grab a cempedak fritter, which my girlfriend insists is a must try no matter the circumstances. I could just imagine the creamy paste enveloped by the awfully good batter.

What about the other items then? It's not that they ain't good, it just that I simply haven't tried them yet.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mama Bakery

Move aside Provence and Sun Moulin because the latest Japanese bread shop which products has got me craving for is Mama Bread, a cafe-like bread store nicely situated on 2nd storey of the newly opened Novena Square 2.

As we swooped through the store like a pair of vultures hungry for some authentic Japanese food, familiar breads like An pan (red bean), Milk pan and Melon pan slightly aroused our senses but it was the more intriguing flavours like seafood vege mango or nutty bread which teased our palates.

The An pan was nicely done and exudes a fragrance strong enough to get your stomach juices going. Generously filled with a good douse of red bean combined with the enticing smell of warm bread, it really makes for a good snack.

The seafood vege mango was even better with a huge piece of prawn inside it. Delightfully creamy, the snack was drenched with sufficient sauces unlike pizza breads in bread stores which often comes dry and tough with a rubbery layer of dried cheese. To put it simply, the fillings resembled that of a lobster salad, those usually used in sushis while the slices of mangoes gave it a subtle hint of sweetness.

The cheese scone proved to be a little too cheesy for me though, and I would preferred a more balanced form of sweetness/saltiness. But the texture was good, not rock hard and crumbly enough for a good bite.

If nothing attracts you, at least stop by and try it's Choco Bowl, a large bowl-sized dense chocolate flavoured bread with a generous mix of rich, bitter-sweet chocolate. A chewy texture greets you on the first bite, followed by a delectable taste of bitter chocolate, which undeniably sets it apart from other chocolate breads.

As I trudged into the store which my mouth full of chocolate bread and munching slowly to let the moment last, an old Japanese lady whom I expect is the owner of the store asked with a hint of pride from behind the counter, "Oishii?", to which I vehemently agreed with a thumbs up. I mean, how could I not have?

Slowly munching on the breads we bought, taking in the full serene view of the night sky with a small fountain by the side adding to the ambiance, it really was quite quintessential. The moment only lasted awhile though, as my face uncontrollably expressed a look of dismay after I finished my portion of Choco Bowl and struggled against the strong temptation to grab another chunk of it.

Jolly well, I think I'll save the enjoyment for another day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Vietnam: Other mentionables

Any bowl of dessert with a generous slosh of coconut cream will get my mouth juices flowing just like how my brain perks up when my nose picks up the scent of durian. Asian countries like Vietnam and Bangkok love to use a great deal of coconut cream in their dessert, and of course God must have thrown down some pandan seeds when he thought something was missing.

This dessert stall in Ben Thahn market was paaaaacked. So many stalls but only this one was crowded most of the time. We had this glutinous rice with large, brown bean and covered with a good scoop of coconut cream. Fragrant glutinous rice with large beans providing a fuller taste and a nice powdery feel felt so good in my mouth. MMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmm! They also have other kinds of dessert like glutinous rice with yam, tau suan and bo bur cha cha. The only difference is that their tau suan, or rather their corn starch, is so sticky that I can throw it at a wall and it'll stick there.

Then we ordered this plate of kueh. The green one tasted like kueh kosui with mung bean paste on top of it and the yellow one is banana slices enveloped in clear jelly. Fantastic.

Just beside it was this stall selling iced desserts like cheng tng and chendol but in glasses. The chendol was quite similar to Singapore's but the cheng tng was different, with an added touch of raisins inside. The fillings were also slightly than those found here.

Oh and I forgot to mention, they give a small glass of refreshing unsweetened green tea with every dessert order. Just so you wouldn't feel so jerlard afterwards.

Walk a few more steps and we found any stall operating like a traffic light. People walk by, sit down, eat and leave with their seats quickly replaced by others. What they were selling were glutinous rice balls, something like abacus seeds, and some other rice balls with fillings in them. They give it a good dash of prawn floss and spring onions with a generous scoop of fish sauce and nicely finished with a handful of pork lard. It's freaking... awesome... Really.

Ben Thahn market is a good place to go if you're around Ho Chi Minh City. It has loads of stuff, including durian and many stalls sell Vietnamese coffee. And if your lady ain't crazy over food as you are, she can go shop for clothes and stuff and leave us alone!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vietnam: The other mentionables

The streets and districts are literally littered with cafes of different origins; French, Italian, Mexican, you name it. The food were surprisingly good as like this honey mustard chicken we had in a restaurant opposite Parklane plaza. The honey mustard was so well done with the right diffusion of both sauces; the honey not cloyingly sweet and the mustard without a strong an undispleasurable tang. Dipping it with into the sides of fried bacon was perfect. Plus, it's only SGD7.

The seabass wrapped with pork was not bad either. With a nice creamy sauce coating the pieces, the neat arrangement made the smaller portion seem forgettable.

Occasionally found on the streets are also this little moving pancake sellers. They've got waffles, egg cakes and some crispy biscuits. Soft yet dense, the egg cakes had a strong eggy flavour to it and was sweet enough to curb my sweet tooth.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Pho 2000, where Bill Clinton reportedly dined in during 2000 (I guess that's where the name came from). Well, I guess Bill Clinton was just feeling damn hungry at the moment because it wasn't really anything special at all.

As we absorbed the sights of Ho Chi Minh City over the course of five days, we started to understand the orderly chaos inside this busy city. Things are definitely different and much more stressful than Singapore, not to say that the air was so polluted my nookie turned black. But that's the way things are over here, and you will get used to it.

We didn't make it to alot of places, mostly due to the language barrier and the lack of knowledge of the place. But I'm sure Vietnam has much more sights to offer and I definately hope that those of you going there will enjoy it much more than me (I truly enjoyed it though). If anything, some other places worth visiting are also the Ben Thahn market and the war museum, which I think is a must visit if only to understand the horrors of war and how we should never, ever, use violence on any country or on anyone.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vietnam: Part V .. & Bahn mi !

A good smear of pate, a few slices of well marbled and differently flavoured ham, a large chunk of solid pork lard, a generous sprinkle of pork floss and appropriately finished with a large spread of yellowish home-made mayonnaise may not seem like the healthiest sandwich filling in the world. But sometimes, or rather most of the time, the tastiest food in life are probably the most unhealthy ones and trust me when I say that somethings, are worth dying for.

Behind a brightly lit stall stand three ladies working at super sonic speed, frantically stuffing and smearing fillings into crisp out-of-the-oven baguettes. Nothing seems out of order though, as sandwiches by sandwiches exchanged hands with such speed and ease that they seemed to be programed at what they were doing.

If you still have no hint at what I was talking about, let me tell you about the Vietnamese sandwich, or Bahn Mi, as they say it. Using baguettes fresh out of a charcoal-fueled oven with the fluffiest insides and the crispiest outer layer, a good generous stuffing of pork belly, floss, pate and ham completes a sandwich that tastes so sinfully good, you'd want more.

Words escape me as I simply cannot find a good description for the taste. Just imagine warm, soft bread with very porky insides and a creamy pate filling. Oh... nice.

Apparently it is a popular dish, or snack, as we spotted loads of people going about their daily lives with these Bahn mi in their hands providing an enormous source of energy for the day. This stall we found though, had people queuing up at 11pm which just had to signify something good going on. Just in case you are going to Vietnam anytime soon, this stall is located behind Zen plaza which you can be directed by my pathetic looking map. (Coming soon)

Other than that, Banh mi stalls are pretty easily found everywhere else, even by the roadsides like this one. If you're dropping by Vietnam, grab one of it, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Vietnam: Part IV

By the second day we pretty much figured how everything went. To cross the road, please cross. "Har?" Well, you heard me, if you stand there overwhelmed by the sheer number of vehicles, they jolly well ARE going to overwhelm you! So just cross, I'll say, even though you may feel your life expectancy decrease by half. The bikes will avoid you automatically, even though they signal their displeasures by letting loose a series of honks.

Plodding on, Vietnam will slowly reveal herself in bits n pieces. Pushcarts selling food dot the streets, ladies hanging fruits on baskets off a pole trudging on in the sweltering heat, and of course the bothersome taxi drivers and tricycle riders calling at you for every opportunity to earn your buck. People there are generally nice, except that they don't say "Excuse me" when they need to pass, they just shove you aside with their hands. They even do this to kids, don't ask me why.

Fruits are abundant there. Fruits I'd die to eat everyday. Top of my list: Durian, and followed by Lychee, Mangosteen and Dragonfruits which are pretty much easily available everywhere. Not to mention cheap; I had durians by the roadside at 10,000 dongs per kilo which if converted equals to SGD1 per kilo. Oh man, that was memorable and the durian was damn good also.

Here are some other stuff we had to complete the food court series.

Another kind of beef rolls but wrapped with mustard leaves. Mustard leaves are a very subjective taste and apparently, we didn't like it very much.

If mango salad isn't your style, I'd say go for Bamboo shoot salad. Served warm with two pieces of rice crackers, this porky taste-infused dish made a wonder when you plomp it on top of the rice crackers. A crunch and then a warm, steady release of pork juice all absorbed in the bamboo shoots with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds adding the finishing touch.

The same outlet sells this dessert; black glutinous rice with mung bean paste and coconut cream. Oh my goodness, it was heavenly. As I guess anything with that combination would be.

Surprisingly, we had western lunches twice which were good! It wasn't like we would order this in Singapore, but I had no idea what drove us to order them there. The beef skewer nicely grilled with a substantial smokey flavour and the rice was really nicely added with a good dash of spices and butter; like very good fried rice.

Alrighty, I'll hit the streets in my next post.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Vietnam: Part III

We weren't feeling too adventurous on our first day there so we stuck in food courts in Diamond Plaza and Zen plaza, where we came to realise that the food in their food courts, are pretty much mostly the same few stalls.

Diamond Plaza is larger than Zen, but has the same arrangement where you go round and round an escalator. It's not bad actually and we found this stall called Wrap and Roll or something like that which sells all the Vietnamese rolls.

Erm, we tried quite a number of their stuff, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Here we go..

This beef rolls is friggin' awesome. It's tender beef wrapped around caremalised onions and some other vegetables. The beef has this, sorta like Samurai Burger mixed with satay taste and was really good. It came with a dip which was dried shrimps mixed with fish sauce and was Mmmmm Mmm!

This were their Southern spring rolls. The difference between the southern and northern ones, was that there were no shrimps in the southern ones. What it's got in it is nice juicy minced pork with shredded carrots and vermicelli. It was good. Hey, what else can I say right?

Served with fish sauce with carrots and garlic inside it, the tanginess of the sauce balanced out the greasiness pretty well.

Mango salad! Is mango salad a traditional dish in Vietnam? Hmmm, I doubt so. Yet, this one was good, but of course not better than those in Thailand. It's much sweeter over here and yummy enough when stacked up on some keropok.

Oh yeah, the rolls also came with fresh vegetables like lettuce, mint leaves and cucumbers, vermicelli and rice wraps for you to wrap and dip into the sauce. It's all pretty balanced over there.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Vietnam: Part II

A wall of glass doors, reflective and squeaky clean, opens up into a huge area four stories high. Floor tiles as creamy as the purest buttermilk shine as if they were just polished. At one corner, a jungle-themed decoration plaster the walls, enhancing the showcase of fashion products neatly lined below. Another corner, an escalator leads upwards to two corridors, both of which line rows of shops flaunting their branded goods, as if willing you to lavish yourself on their high-end products.

Just outside, a huge fountain with a waterfall provides a refreshing change from the bustling city and adds to the ambiance as I spot a number of people walking about, having their meals by the side tables, or simply soaking in the atmosphere.

Travel downstairs and you'll be blown away by the sheer amount of food and beverage outlets ranging from cafes like Starbucks and Secret Recipe to others priding themselves on selling traditional fare. Of course, not to mention a huge supermarket and several up-market restaurants.

Sounds like a damn good place to shop at right? Of course, that's Paragon in Bangkok, where we entirely enjoyed ourselves last year, you didn't think that was Ho Chi Minh for a moment did you?

So snapping back to reality, Ho Chi Minh is a pretty congested place which leads to compromised land and building areas. Unfortunately, this only means that shopping malls are built pretty small and don't have the luxury of space to have alot of shops. As a result, what you get is a platform of stores without separators, something like Seiyu, but on every level. Gawd, we couldn't even find a place to sit until we reached level 5 where there was a food court.

This was of course in Zen plaza, 10 minutes walk and 2,000 motorcycles away from the hotel we live in. We had our first sampling of Vietnamese food there, which is a little sad but unavoidable since we couldn't really order from the roadside stalls in Vietnamese. The food court is different in a way that you order and pay and they'll serve it to you later.

Pho 24 was alright and tasted really MSG laden IMO. There's a stall beside them though that has really power rice rolls. It's glutinous rice is soft to the max and I could have shown you a picture of it, until my cam screwed up (and along went the desserts pic on the next paragraph). I did take a picture of this though, grilled pork with rice wrap. Not fantastic but good enough to ease my tummy. A stronger pork flavour and softer wrap would've made it perfect.

And if your sweet tooth comes knocking, hop opposite to a dessert stall selling traditional desserts and gelato ice cream. The coconut cream combined with grilled banana and yam blocks was nothing short of delicious. Sweet and fragrant, the flavours, this traditional sweet gave a rich and milky feeling.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Vietnam is

ONE hell of a stressful place to live in. As a gazillion bikes, cars, bicycles, pushcarts, tricycles and people move like floodwaves against or along each other, it takes more than a little imagination to see how the country has picked up so much only 30 years after the Vietnam war.

As the plane started its slow descend onto the runway, small specks of grey and white magnified into rural-looking estates which looked like they belonged to the 50's while puddles reflecting the sunlight became large padi fields positioned sporadically among the mass of buildings.

With fingers crossed we stepped out of the airport not knowing what to expect in this foreign country and were greeted by a mish mash of motorcycles, cars, people.. and unthankfully more motorcycles. Oookay, it's a little of a culture shock as the traffic was like 5 times more disastrous than Bangkok's, plus it doesn't help that we were immediately overwhelmed by taxi drivers demanding a treasure chest's price for a trip to our hotel (and charged in USD, mind you).

The journey to our hotel was nothing short of "spectacular" as the taxi weaved in and out through swarms of motorcycles. I have NEVER, ever, in my entire life seen so much (many would be an understatement) motorcycles in one place before. And just for those who have never been to Vietnam before, most of the riders wore cloth masks and straw hats and it isn't uncommon to see women adorned in their traditional costumes on bikes or a family of four happily cutting through the massive traffic on their "amazingly strong" scooter. In fact, I think that if you wore a helmet, they'd think you were an alien.

Even more amazing, they seem to be able to carry almost everything on their bikes. Let's put it this way, I've seen one guy carrying two queen size mattresses, another one carrying a huge painting on the side and check this out, a huge bagful of soft toys?! We even spotted one with two huge stacks of ice at the back, yes in the blistering heat it managed to remain solid (I don't know why..).

Sitting in the taxi was nothing compared to witnessing the traffic upfront while trying our best to cross the road. We were so pathetic moving only inches, that the hotel porter had to guide us across the road. Imagine 500 bikes coming your way on a narrow two lane road while spontaneously honking at God-knows-what. Now, that's scary.

Our next impression of Vietnam was that it was boring.. and seriously hot.. after initially and unsuccesfully trying to explore the districts (which were cluttered with small cafes, pho restaurants, banh mi stalls and surprisingly a substanstial number of painting shops), the cursed blardy hot weather forced us to desperately search for shopping centres (yes, we being typically Singaporeans admit that we CANNOT live without shopping centres) and after we did found one, after we thought we found solace, we were WRONG.

To Be Continued..