Monday, May 31, 2010

Best Custard Buns in Singapore

I've almost given up on dim-sum in Singapore.. and decided that I'd just stuff myself with dim-sum whenever we go Hong Kong.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when we went for brunch with some church friends on Sunday and I chanced upon some very good dim sum in Crystal Jade.

Don't get me wrong though. I don't like the dim sum in Crystal Jade much. The har gao (shrimp dumpling) is salty and badly made (the skin falls off the dumpling at the slightest touch). The pan-fried carrot cake is oily and salty. Almost everything deep fried is a tad too oily for my liking.

They do okay on some items though - their cheong fan is pretty decent. The shrimps are nice and springy and the sauce is not too overwhelming.

But I went away with a very good impression of Crystal Jade yesterday because of their steamed buns.

Especially their Custard Buns.

They come in a very bright orange colour and very strangely, with cupcake liners. But looks are deceiving because I find the custard inside really quite good - just the right balance of custard and melted salted egg-yolk. The skin of the buns are also nice and light.

The custard oozes out of the buns as you take a bite... Yummy! I think they are the best Custard Buns I've tasted so far in Singapore!.

The Char Siew Buns, whilst not the best, are pretty good too.

Wonder Noodle Sauce

A yummy dinner in about 10 minutes

We always make sure that we have a bottle of this "Wonder Noodle Sauce" at home.. whether in Singapore or otherwise.

This little bottle of "Wonder Noodle Sauce" is actually a Si-chuan Sauce and is so-called because it can really make a very plain bowl of noodles yummy.

Occasionally, I'd buy a whole kg of fresh noodles from the noodles store at the local wet market. Then, I'd divide the noodles up into individual servings an then freeze them.

On days when I don't feel like eating out and have no time to cook, I'd throw the noodles into a pot of boiling water. In a separate pot, I'd cook some vegetables and fish balls or beef balls.

When the noodles are almost done, I'd dunk them into an ice-water bath before returning them to the pot with the vegetables and beef balls.

To serve, I'd drain off all the water and add a dollop of the "Wonder Noodle Sauce".. and viola, dinner is served! All it takes is about 10 minutes.. and it taste so much better than any instant noodles.

This Amoy brand Spicy Sichuan Sauce is unfortunately, not available in Singapore.

I get my supplies from Hong Kong. It is also available in Australia, US and Canada, according to Amoy's website.

Extra Hot Spicy Sichuan-Style Noodle Sauce 
- a small bottle goes a long way..

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Online shopping

Shopping online is something I enjoy doing.. and it is becoming more like a regular thing for me now than in the past.

In Singapore, shopping is so convenient that it kind of makes shopping online seemingly redundant.

But I find that it saves me quite a bit of money buying stuff online sometimes. Plus you get things delivered in a box right to your doorstep.. Plus I really like the "box" part - it's like opening up a new present.. (oh dear, do I sound like a shopaholic?)

Here are a couple of websites I like to go to.

The first is - I go there for books and beauty products. Books are the obvious, I guess.. for Amazon. I've found that some books, especially baking books are cheaper to buy online than at major bookstores in Singapore. Even after the delivery charges.

Beauty products too. I like a couple of brands my dermatologist suggest.. and it saves me about at least 30% - 40% to buy from Amazon than from the dermatologist. (By the way, the brand I like the most is PCA Skin. Their rejuvenating serum is very good!)

Some other stuff is usually cheaper on Amazon too.. like some specialty bakeware. Our Silpat and Microplane, for example (see this post for more information). These are available in some specialty baking stores in town for about 30% more than what we paid. Plus I don't have to drive halfway across the island to buy a baking sheet.. it gets delivered to me.

The Singapore Post vPost system makes shipping a lot cheaper for any purchases from US website.

Another website I like a lot is I like it a lot a lot. It is really convenient to buy stuff from this Chinese website.. if you have a Chinese credit card and an address in China. What I do now that I moved back to Singapore is have them delivered to my friend and collect it from her whenever I visit.

Because of the trouble, I shop a lot less on Taobao now. But it is really a fantastic website. You can find all kinds of stuff on this website.. and the very effective ratings and payment system makes shopping a breeze. So far, I have been really satisfied with most of the things I've bought from Taobao.

A couple of websites my friends like a lot. I haven't really bought anything from these 2 websites.. but I have done lots of browsing. One is - a website that sells everything handmade or vintage. The things people make for sale on this website! Some people are just so creative and artistic!

The other website is for everything branded - With the Euro and Pound so cheap now, it makes shopping on this UK website really worth it. A friend who regularly buys from this website says she gets her shoes at least 20% cheaper. That's really quite a bit for a 300 pounds pair of shoes!

What websites do you like to buy things from?

Homemade Lemon Barley

Tag the word homemade to almost anything edible.. and you've got me interested.

There's just something about the word "homemade" that brings to mind grandma's cooking.. or mum's specialty. And so, I've got a real soft spot for anything that says homemade - homemade jam, homemade ice-cream, homemade pickles.. even homemade ice lemon tea and homemade barley at the local coffeeshop.

Unfortunately, the homemade ice lemon tea and barley usually disappoints.

Today is such a hot day I felt very much like making my own version of homemade lemon barley. It's really simple to make too - boil some barley with water and rock sugar to taste. Then pour out a glass, top it off with plenty of ice and a squeeze of lemon and you get the very best homemade lemon barley.

It's the perfect drink for a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon. And it goes so well with a homemade luncheon meat and egg bun.

The Husband made a batch of luncheon meat and egg buns 
yesterday - they still taste very good on Day 2. 
I don't think any will make it to Day 3..

One for Special Occasions

Morton's is a very nice restaurant to go for a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary.

Firstly, the food is great, of course. The high quality ingredients used result in very good food. We had the steak and seafood set which came with a salad, single cut filet mignon, a choice of scallops, prawns or crab cakes and a side dish. It was the best steak I've ever had in Singapore and the best crab cakes I've ever had. Even the mushrooms and asparagus were very good.

Apart from the salad, the portion looked manageable.. but it was still too much for me. But when the chocolate cake came, We still managed to polish it off.

The next time, however, I'd consider sharing. I was so full I could barely walk out of the restaurant..

Secondly, the ambiance is pretty comfortable. It is not the quiet type of restaurant. In fact, we were there on a Friday night and it was packed full.. and even a tad noisy. But it had a very comfortable atmosphere to it. Not the kind of place where you have to speak in hushed tones and the waiters look as if they are too cool to be working.

Thirdly, the service is quite good. The restaurant was packed when we were there and they were really very busy. But service was fairly prompt and the lady who was in charge of our table was very friendly.

Finally, I think it is a very good place to go for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. The restaurant does some very sweet things for you - never mind that they also do it for just about every other table - everyone else seems to be there for a birthday or an anniversary as well. They decorate your table for you.. have the menu printed with your names on it.. sing you a birthday song.. and take a picture for you and present it to you as a personalised card. 

And it was a pleasant surprise when we found out at the end of the meal that the molten chocolate cake we ordered was actually on the house!

Morton's is an expensive restaurant to go to.. but definitely a good choice for a special occassion. 

The steak and seafood set is available til end June this year (not sure if it'd be extended) but it is not on the menu. You just have to mention it though and they'd let you know what is included in the set.

The filet mignon, crab cakes, sauteed mushrooms 
and molten chocolate cake - all very good. Pictures from Morton's website

It was too dark to take photos.. 
so I only took one photo hastily.. the food was waiting..

Morton's The Steakhouse
Mandarin Oriental Singapore, Level 4
5 Raffles Avenue
Marina Square, Singapore
Tel: +65-63393740

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sale Season

There is the hot and dry season in Singapore.. and the hot and wet season.. and then there is the sale season.

It's the Great Singapore Sale again.

Having not been in Singapore much for the last few years, I've not really felt the excitement of the GSS. It's pretty exciting to see all that banners and posters around shouting "SALES", "50% OFF", "20% STOREWIDE"...

Somehow, these signs make the shopaholic in me very restless.

But the crowds tend to deter me a little. After all, I like shopping but dislike queues. And I'm a little afraid of women (and worse, men) zipping around the racks, with hungry, desperate looking eyes. And when the stores are that crowded, I always feel that it's a little dangerous for very young kids to be around. Yet for some reason, many parents tend to drag their reluctant kids along to the stores and when the young ones get cranky and screamy.. it's time for me to give up and head home.

But the unsuccessful attempts are usually when I start my day late. I've found that if you hit the stores bright and early.. the crowd is not as bad.. and the shoppers are a lot calmer... (the kids too are a lot less cranky)

Anyway, here's an interesting websites about all kinds of sales in Singapore:

This website offers information on all kinds of sales in Singapore - store sales and warehouse sales.. They also provide information on interesting credit card promotions, coupon saver tips etc.

Best of all, the information is not limited to fashion and techie stuff.. but also household stuff as well.. Which brings out both the shopaholic and housewife in me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Buttermilk Replacement

It is not easy to find buttermilk in the local supermarkets..

And I realised that the large boxes that buttermilk often comes in when I do find them is not friendly to small families like mine.

So, I googled around and for some substitutes. Here are the top 4 substitutes I've found.

Substitute #1
One cup milk + 1 tablespoon acid (lemon juice or vinegar)

Unfortunately, the rich tang and slightly thick texture of true authentic buttermilk will not be present. Some people suggest adding one cup of milk less one tablespoon, instead of a whole cup of milk.

Substitute #2
Plain yogurt

The texture of plain yogurt is thicker than that of milk so it is definitely rich enough.. but the unique tang of buttermilk is still not present.

Substitue #3
Half of Substitue #1 and Half of Substitute #2

This one seems to work pretty well. The texture is pretty thick.. but not overly so.

Buttermilk Substitute #4
Whipping cream

Over whip your whipping cream and you end up getting this lumpy, yellowish looking thing. Drain the liquid and that liquid will be buttermilk. The lumpy looking thing? Fresh homemade butter.

This is by far my favourite option.. and what I'd do next time when I over whip cream.. use the buttermilk to make scones.. and eat them with jam and the freshly made butter!

Milk - quite amazing what you can do with it, isn't it? 

Here is a pic of a very cute milk bottle from Koiwai farm, Japan. 
The bottle was so cute I had to lug it back home. This photo looks pretty professional, no? 
It's taken with The Husband's newest lens.

Buttermilk Scones

This is a recipe I owe Petunia..

I have been hoping to try it out again before giving it to her.. (my feeble attempt at being responsible with every recipe I hand out)..

I really struggled with finding buttermilk in the supermarkets near my place. I think I went to about 4 supermarkets.. In the 4th supermarket, I managed to find what I am looking for.. except that box of buttermilk was really too big. There was no way I would use it without wasting half of the box!

So at the 4th supermarket, I decided to do away with the buttermilk and just use a substitute instead.


Excuses aside.. very sorry Petunia, for sharing this recipe so late. It's been more than a month.. almost two, I think! Anyway, I really love this recipe. Hope you'd like it too.

This recipe came from the book Baking with Julia, the contributing baker is Marion Cunningham. I adjusted the steps to make it a little easier.

Dry ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Other Ingredients
1 1/2 stick (6 ounces, or 170g) cold unsalted butter (cut into cubes - make sure it is very cold)
1 cup buttermilk (I'd share my replacement recipe in a separate post)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

4 tablespoon dried fruits (I used raisins)

What I did
1. Preheat the oven to 220 deg C
2. Stir all the dry ingredients together
3. Add the cold butter (make sure it is very cold) to the dry ingredients and use a pastry blender, 2 knives, or fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles cornmeal
4. Add the buttermilk and lemon zest to the mixture and mix gently with a fork until the flour mixture is just moistened. Add the raisins
5. Roll the dough into a ball and knead it briefly. (At this point, because of my warm hands, I put the mixture into the fridge for about 10 minutes)
6. Then roll out the dough out and use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into a desired size.
7. Bake for 12 to 15 mins, or even longer, depending on the size and thickness of your scones.

My over-sized and rustic-looking scone - Not so pretty 
but the raisins and lemon zest makes it pretty good..

The Husband's scones, made from the same recipe 
(except he used buttermilk, and not a substitute..) 
Now, why can't my scones look so good?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tauhu Goreng

I was inspired to make tauhu goreng for dinner today because of a post by Ting last week. Here is the recipe that she shared on her blog - yummy fresh homemade tauhu goreng.

I wished I could say I followed her recipe to the letter.. but I didn't. I went to a spice store looking for tamarind and they didn't have any.

"But we have a very nice instant peanut sauce if you want".

And so I made my tauhu goreng with the instant peanut gravy..

I'm sure it's nowhere as good as a totally homemade one.. but it did satisfy my cravings for tauhu goreng. For now.

Tauhu Goreng with extra vegetables - 
So much vegetables you can't even see the tau kwa!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kiritanpo Nabe

 The Kiritanpo Nabe I had in Akita

Kiritanpo is a cylinder-shaped rice cake. It's a speciality food of Akita region, Japan.

Kiritanpo nabe is hot pot with Kiritanpo. In Akita, this nabe is usually made with a chicken-based broth. The chicken used is usually Hinai jidori (比内地鶏), a specialty of Akita - especially flavourful and low in fat. Besides chicken meat, lots of vegetables like cabbage, leek and mushrooms, as well as konnyaku, are also typically added to the hotpot.

I made this nabe for dinner tonight.. but I kind of "cheated" because I used some vacuum-packed Kiritanpo and Hinai Jidori stock concentrate to make the nabe. I had bought a couple of packets of these "instant Kiritanpo nabe" back from Akita. All I had to do was to add some chicken meat and vegetables.

If you are interested to make this nabe at home, this website give a pretty good guide on how to make it. You'd have to make your own Kiritanpo though, by mashing up cooked rice and then wrapping the rice around wooden sticks before toasting.

An easier way would be to make Damako Nabe (Rice Ball Hotpot) instead. The rice balls can be made rather easily. The recipe on this website looks easy enough.

 "Instant" Kiritanpo Nabe

Home-made Kritanpo Nabe with extra vegetables and mushrooms

My favourite part of the nabe - the Kiritanpo, of course.. and the leeks. Yummy!

Food Over Service?

If you had to choose.. would you choose to go to a restaurant where the food is good.. but service is not.. or a restaurant where the food is good... but ambiance is not..?

Well, I'm the kind of person who would usually choose food over service.. and food over ambiance.

But sometimes.. I wish I do not have to make that choice..

I had lunch at Ember today.

I thought the food was great. It's been a while since I've gone to a restaurant.. where everything I tasted exceeded my expectations. (Oh dear, yes.. I am pretty fussy..)

The foie gras with mushrooms was perfect - crispy on the outside and melt-in-your mouth on the inside. The duck confit was very good. It looked passe but the duck was crispy and a little on the dry side but flavourful enough. The apple tart was sweet and chewy and went really well with the vanilla ice-cream.

The food was really pretty good at Ember.

Sadly, I saw plenty of bad reviews about the service even before I went there. We didn't experience any bad service.. but the some of the waitresses had shocking attitudes. I felt as if I was being interrogated when one of them came around asking for our orders. Some of the waitresses were also kind of "shouting" out instructions to each other. So.. sadly, although the maître d' was really nice and friendly, I wouldn't remember Ember as a place big on service. The restaurant was also for some reason very noisy - all the noise seemed to be "trapped" indoors and I could hardly hear my friends at times.

So the conclusion is - if you are looking for a nice, yummy French-fusion lunch or dinner with a bunch of girlfriends, Ember is a good place to go. But if you are looking for a nice romantic dinner with your spouse, you might want to reconsider going to Ember..

There are just times when one wouldn't choose food over service.

The very yummy foie gras

Crispy Duck Confit

A sweet ending - apple tartin with vanilla ice-cream

Add: 50 Keong Saik Road, Hotel 1929
Tel: +65 6347 1928

Sunday, May 9, 2010

No Knead Bread

Doesn't this bread look "professional"?

The Husband made this today. It is made from a rather unique recipe.. and unlike "normal bread recipes", no real kneading is required.

So, even if you do not have a mixer or a bread machine at home, you can make this bread.

Here's a pretty good website that shows you how you can make bread using the "no knead method".

Perhaps it is the gluten level in the flour we have.. but it took The Husband four times to get this bread just perfect. I like the crustiness of this bread - He used cornmeal on the outside of the bread so it has a very nice texture to it.

I'd check to see if he is willing to share his recipe.

A rustic looking loaf of bread

Drawstring Tea Bags

I love these drawstring tea bags by Tetley.

They are design to get as much flavour out of the tea in the teabag as possible.. and to prevent drips from the tea bags as you remove them from your cup.

Such a clever design! Too bad I couldn't find them any more in Hong Kong.

(If anyone knows where these teabags can be found in Singapore or Hong Kong, do let me know, OK?)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Money Management by Women

The Husband and I like to watch The Suze Orman Show on CNBC..

I used to think she is just loud and rather irritating.

But the more I watch her show on CNBC... the more I like it. She is still loud, of course... and sometimes still a little irritating... but she does hand out some pretty solid advice in the show...

I realised that a lot of women calls into her show to ask her about money management problems.

I used to be shocked by the ignorance of some of the women who call in to her shows - there were women who didn't know how much money their spouse made.. or how much debt their spouse were getting them into.. there was one whose spouse had passed away and she was lost, because she never handled "money stuff"..

But then one day, I realised.. hey.. I do very little of money management myself.

I've never done any budgeting or planning with my money. Not that I didn't save.. but I've never planned how much I should save and how much I should spend.. And I've never carefully plan out how I should invest my money.. or anything like that.

It is ironical. Because planning and plan execute is part of life at work. But in my personal life, I've never really planned things out.

Perhaps it is good that I start doing some money management. I may have started late but hey.. one has got to start somewhere.

Picture source: Pls see here

Mixed Nuts Biscotti

Biscotti must be the easiest thing to bake.

(Well, almost the easiest thing. The easiest is definitely chocolate brownies. I'd share my recipe another day)

But biscotti is easy to bake and rather healthy too.. so I'd definitely be making more of them in future.

The Husband made these some time back - using the recipe by Baking with Julia. The only variation I did this time was to add some leftover almond silvers to the biscotti, so I ended up with Mixed Nuts Biscotti, rather than Macadamia Nut Biscotti..

Dry Ingredients
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Wet Ingredients
2 large eggs
2 tsp liqueur
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

What I did
1. Preheat oven to 150 deg C
2. Mix all the wet ingredients together
3. Mix all the dry ingredients together in another bowl
4. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together (The mixture will be really thick). Then, add about 2/3 cup of nuts (I used macadamia and almond nuts)
5. Use 2 spoons (or your hands) to scoop up half the mixture and spread it into a log across a Silpat or a lined baking sheet. Just try to as neat as you can but don't worry about smoothing the dough too much.
6. Do the same thing to the other half of the mixture, leaving the 2 logs about 3 inches apart.
7. Bake for exactly 35 minutes then transfer the logs to a cooling rack and let cool
8. Cut the logs into 1/2 inch slices and then bake for another 10 to 15 minutes

Biscotti is really really easy to make. The "hardest" part in the part where you have to cut the logs up into slices.

They go really well with a strong cup of tea or a fragrant cup of hot coffee.

I'd be more adventurous next time and try out other flavours. Currently, I'm thinking chocolate and green tea flavour.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dim Joy - Part 2

The brother wanted to go Dim Joy as a Part 2 celebration of my dad's birthday, so I reluctantly agreed to give the place a second chance.

Apart from some of the stuff I've tried last time, we also tried the "Stewed Pork Belly and Mui Choy Bun" , "High Calcium Pork Rib Congee" and "Pork and Chives Fried Gyoza". The first 2 items are pretty alright.. but the Gyoza was a real disappointment. It looked really good.. but the taste was like that of frozen gyoza, if not worse..

Oh, one thing interesting they have at Dim Joy - Small glass bottles of Coke!

Stewed Pork Belly and Mui Choy Bun

High Calcium Pork Rib Congee

Pork and Chives Fried Gyoza

Small bottled Coke

Well, all I can say is.. I'm still on the lookout of a good dim sum restaurant in Singapore.

Dim Joy
Address: 80 Neil Road, Singapore 088842
Telephone: +65-62206986

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Something passed me by..

I have started working again for more than 2 weeks now.

Work is fine. Confusing at first but things are getting clearer.. Right now, work is very manageable and not too stressful. Not yet anyway..

It's been about 4 years since I've worked in Singapore.. I have been meeting up with many ex-colleagues for lunch since I started work. Many are working in the same company.. the others are all located pretty nearby.

After lunch last week with some of my ex-colleagues, I felt a little depressed. Not depressed depressed.. but a little reflective depressed.

You see, I felt a little out of place... as if something has passed me by over the last 4 years. Outwardly things are still deceptively similar.. We still chat, joked and laughed together.. But somehow, things have changed.

Some of my colleagues dress differently - dripping diamonds and branded handbags... Others lament about their "low" pay.. An athletic friend who was always the kind to go hiking and marathons talked lovingly about her young daughter - the last time I met her, she was single.

Over lunch, it was very obvious that everyone has changed somewhat over the 4 years. Everyone seemed to have "moved on". Except that I seemed to be in the same place. It was still the same old me at lunch with my friends.

But perhaps that is how we all feel when meeting up with some friends we have not met for a long time.. Perhaps when some of my friends look at me, they think that I've "moved on" too.

I wonder if anyone else out there feels the same when meeting up with old friends?