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All posts for the month October, 2019

Baan Ying

Published October 30, 2019 by piggie

Credit: Baan Ying

One Meal Around Thailand

Mentioning set meals, I think most of us would easily think of Chinese, Western, and Japanese. And to me, Thai set meal is some kind of fascinating temptation that I have never tried before, despite the fact that I had been to Thailand a number of times. In collaboration with Tourism Authority of Thailand, Baan Ying presented One Meal Around Thailand to re-introduce Thailand’s four main regions via gastronomy adventures, and this is what I would call a bold initiative. Most of us would have known Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, and Phuket, but seriously, how many knew about Thailand is segregated into 4 main regions, namely Central, Northern, Southern, and North-Eastern? Anyway, let’s walk through Thailand in an almost effortless and tantalising way!

First and foremost, my apologies that this post came probably a month too late, as this set meal required prior reservation and was only available through Sep 2019, meaning this post is more of a documentation now rather than an introduction. Nonetheless, I hope it showcases Baan Ying’s authenticity goes beyond the popular Phad Thai and Tom Yam Goong that most of us are familiar with.

Baan Ying (which literally means Ying’s House in Thai) started in Bangkok’s Siam Square by Auntie Ying more than 20 years ago, and boasts a total of 7 restaurants in Bangkok’s prime location before venturing to Singapore in 2017. I thought the staffs’ English accent sounded a bit weird when I made the reservation, before I realise they are likely Thai locals who brought an aura of authenticity here on top of their cuisines. And yes, Baan Ying does offer à la carte menu apart from the seasonal set meal that we are having.

As soon as we were seated, we were served clay plate with banana leaf on top, along with a bar of aromatic soap (I don’t know what’s that for??), perhaps an indication that our meal will be a rather aromatic journey!

Maproa Nam Hom (Fresh Coconut)

Next, our welcome drink, Maproa Nam Hom, was shortly served. I guess this needs no further introduction in this region, and coconut juice is great in neutralising our taste bud before we indulge in exotic Thai gastronomy experience.

Larb Gai (Spicy Chicken Salad)

Larb Gai is a Northern Thai dish, commonly served in Thai merit and ceremony events. It is usually comprised of fragrant roasted rice, aromatic Thai herbs, chilli and lime juice, and typically served with sticky or steamed rice, here we had it on a crunchy cucumber, which offers an interesting contrast.

Vegetables… What’s so special about these? Nothing really. But wait.. these are actually supporting cast to the four sensational chilli dip that I’m gonna elaborate immediately below.

Nam Prik See Pak (Chilli Dip of 4 Regions)

You know, if the 4 chilli dip are introduced on their own, I think some diners may cry foul. But in truth, these aren’t the main dishes yet, and ought to be treated as another appetiser, and in fact the term ‘chilli’ is merely broadly used here, as not all the dip are really spicy, and for some, it’s actually more than just ‘dip’. Nam Pril See Pak here consists of 4 dips, (from top) Nam Prik Tah Daeng (Red Chilli Dip), Nam Prik Goong Seab (Dried Shrimp Chilli Dip), Soup Makuer (Spicy Thai Eggplant Chilli Dip), and Lhon Pla Kem (Salted Fish Dip).

Nam Prik Tah Daeng (Red Chilli Dip), a Northern Thai dip, is made with dried chillies, Thai fish sauce, and tamarind. But to me, this just taste like hot chilli, and the hotness is so dominant that the aroma of Thai fish sauce and tamarind were virtually overpowered. No prize guessing at the end of our meal, this was one that was very much left untouched.

Nam Prik Goong Seab (Dried Shrimp Chilli Dip) is a Southern Thailand dip where shrimps are grilled over low heat until dry, and then preserved and subsequently made into chilli paste. Sounds familiar? Shh… keep it quiet, if I say it is belacan, I think some of our neighbouring countries will begin making noise again! LOL! Geographically, Southern Thailand and Northern Malaysia are connected on land, doesn’t surprise me that they may have common cuisines anyway.

OK, those two above are practically chilli that we are familiar with, but what follows will be more interesting.

Soup Makuer (Spicy Thai Eggplant Chilli Dip) is a salty and spicy dip made of boiled, tender eggplant and seasoned with Thai anchovy paste and dried chilli powder. In Northern Thailand, soup actually means ‘mixed’, and this is a very flavourful dip with texture like tamarind tuna.

Lhon Pla Kem (Salted Fish Dip) is a dip that represents the Sukhothai way of life and claimed to be made of smoked dried fish, minced pork, shrimp paste, and simmered in rich coconut cream. To me, the taste is akin to Thai green curry.

The last two dips are in fact, great to try on their own too!

Yum Yum (Salad)

I have still not come to the main dish yet, but this Yum Yum was presented in a rather fanciful way. The waitress asked whether we would like to experience mixing these ingredients ourselves? Thanks but no thanks, though I can envisage the fun, but we are a bunch of practically lazy bums who prefer to just eat. So the result above was what she mixed in front of us, better for the Instagram than if we did it on our own too!

This is actually Som Tum Tad (Green Papaya Salad Platter with side dishes). By the name of it, it’s not difficult to guess there’s a mixture of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and spiciness all in one. According to Baan Ying, this is the traditional way to enjoy Thai salad, in a large bowl, somewhat like our rojak. Ingredients include green papaya, pork, eggs, bean sprouts, tomatoes, lime, and noodles.

Nam Anchan Maprao Pan (Frozen Butterfly Pea and Coconut Shot)

Just before we started the main course, Nam Anchan Maprao Pan was served. This is a refreshing shot of butterfly pea and coconut juice concoction and serves as a palate cleanser before the more exotic main courses are served. I simply love its colour and foam, and the taste is remarkable too, refreshing and not excessively sweet. The interesting part is, the waitress was very keen to inform us, that this shot ought to be finished in one gulp!

OK, let’s bring on the main dishes!

Gaeng Som Pae Sah (Fried Seabass in Tamarind Soup)

This sour curry dish from central Thailand comes in an interesting clay pot in the shape of a fish. It features a combination of sweet veggies, deep-fried seabass chunks, and tangy tamarind, and the result is rather appetising.

Gaeng Hang Leh (Pork Belly Curry)

Personally, I don’t like fatty dish, and these pork bellies are more towards the fatty side… Nonetheless, this ain’t your usual Thai green curry, it is a cuisine from Northern Thailand, and believed to have Myanmar heritage. It comes with a blend of saltiness, spicy, as well as mild sour.

Oh, I almost forgot, the main course was served along with generous steamed rice too!

Sator Pad Goong (Stir-fried Bitter Bean with Shrimp)

For Sator Pad Goong, this is really one I find complicated to appreciate. It is a Southern Thailand dish fried using shrimps, shrimp paste, bitter beans, and it was the latter which I simply dislike. Like its name suggests, it’s bitter. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that on a personal note, I find bitter beans hard to swallow, just like foreigners cannot stand durian. But apart from the bitter beans, the rest are delicious.

Khai Pam (Grilled Egg)

This is truly one for the Instagram, and there’s a saying that no Thai meal is complete without a Thai omelette. This is made by grilling an egg on a banana leaf over water. Unfortunately, it was too dry for my liking. I find its taste rather bland too, pity the scallions and coriander leaves don’t help much.

All right, that concludes the main courses. Last but not least, here comes the dessert!

Crème Brûlée Cha Thai (Thai Milk Tea Crème Brûlée)

OMG, this is heavenly! I love Thai milk tea, and to make them into crème brûlée is simply exceptional! I always regard Japanese desserts as the best of this world, but trust me, this one is at the same level, if not better. The rich and flavourful Thai milk tea made this a real seduction, and I can easily have two or more, if only my fellow diners are kind enough to offer me their take, I can finish them all! 😀

There’s also accompanying herbal tea to cap off our gastronomy evening, we were offered the option of Lemon Grass, Mulberry, and two more I can’t remember. We had Lemon Grass and Mulberry, but strange, the aroma are the same. We suspect the waitress must have given us all the same drink. As even though I had Lemon Grass, my tea lacks the usual aroma I was expecting.

In conclusion, I must confess Baan Ying’s attempt in bringing authentic Thai feast to Singapore has really open up my perspective of Thailand beyond the few touristy cities. Enjoying this set meal was like a brief geography lesson on Thailand which I feel is more fruitful than merely reading on Wikipedia or travel guide book. Once again, kudos to Baan Ying’s bold attempt in re-introducing Thailand in such untypical fashion, I look forward to knowing more mouthwatering treats from the land of a thousand smiles!

Baan Ying
103 Irrawaddy Road #02-07
Royal Square @ Novena
Singapore 329566
Tel: +65 91117852
Email: sawasdee@baanying.sg
Website: http://www.baanying.sg/baanying

Opening Hours ~
Mon – Fri: 11:00 hr – 14:15 hr, 17:30 hr – 21:15 hr
Sat – Sun: 11:00 hr – 21:15 hr

Flaming Don

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

I actually discover Flaming Don by chance, allow me to reiterate that if you are looking for authentic Japanese fix, then this is probably not your cup of tea. Flaming Don claims to offer modern take on Japanese rice bowl, meaning expect a little twist to your conventional Japanese donburi, and after eating, I have to confess, the chemistry is damn good!

Their eatery at Bugis + (not sure about their other outlet at Bukit Panjang Plaza though) is pretty much a self-service concept. You order from the automated kiosk, collect your order chit, then wait for your number to be flashed before collecting your order.

Salmon Don, $12.90

Their Salmon Don features grilled Norwegian salmon with runny fried egg underneath, along with broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Quite usually, certain ingredients in a dish will be inferior to another, however, I can’t fault any here at all. The vegetables are fresh, the salmon grilled to perfection with a crisp exterior but not overdone so that a chewy texture remains, even the egg still retain both attributes of a runny egg and a fried egg, the end product is absolutely flavourful!

Salmon Aburi Don, $12.90

It’s easy to be deceived by the somewhat lacklustre appearance of this Salmon Aburi Don in juxtaposition with their Salmon Don above. Blame it on my camera phone perhaps, but underneath the generous spicy mayonnaise, the salmon are cooked differently from their Salmon Don. I found the salmon interior still retain a semi-raw texture, and the cohesion with the spicy mayonnaise actually taste surprisingly good!

In both cases, I wasn’t sure whether Japanese rice are used (Japonica no doubt), but the end composition are more than satisfying, in fact, I was so impressed that I took another group of friends here for another round a week later. In addition, after I penned this review, I found out some very negative feedback about Flaming Don, I need to highlight that my visit was not sponsored, and I noted the items I ate are different from other reviewers. Seems to me their quality fluctuates like share market! LOL!

Flaming Don currently has two outlets, their flagship store is this one at Bugis +

Flaming Don
201 Victoria Street
Bugis + #05-02/03
Singapore 188067
Tel: +65 68357019
Website: http://flamingdon.com.sg/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:30 hr – 21:30 hr

Shirakaba Sansou 白樺山荘

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

Miso Char-siu Men, $16

I have big sentiment towards Shirakaba Sansou dating back to 2007. It was the first of my 15 trips to Japan, having my first ramen in Sapporo from ESTA’s Ramen Republic. I walked around the premise and selected Shirakaba Sansou without prior research. Though I have little recollection on its taste, I remember it was a satisfying bowl of Miso ramen, with butter and corn among beansprouts and bamboo shoot. After a filling dinner, I returned to my hotel, grabbed my luggage, and took the overnight train leaving Hokkaido for Aomori. That time, I thought it would be my one and only visit to Japan, I never expected returning for a whopping 14 times more.

So when Hokkaido Marche brought Shirakaba Sansou over, I was naturally delighted. It was a big opportunity for me to relish a forgotten taste, despite the fact that since my first visit, I had re-visited Sapporo twice but not Shirakaba Sansou there.

Having said that, this bowl of Miso Char-siu Men is very different from what I ordered some 12 years ago in Sapporo, the ingredients are very different, notably the absence of butter and sweet corn. Pardon me, I wasn’t even sure the name of the ramen I ordered then, but I remember jotting down the name in a notepad and shown it to the staff, as the smartphone era had not really taken flight yet, and I couldn’t understand Japanese. Back to this Miso Char-siu Men… for $16, it came with 3 pieces of charshu, along with bamboo shoot, leek, black fungus, and seaweed etc. The noodle used was medium thick curly noodles, which was excellent in retaining the broth upon eating. Overall, it’s still a satisfying bowl of ramen but if I would have to grade it, I would say above average. One thing I like about Shirakaba Sansou is that, boiled eggs are available freely to patrons, which is not a common sight in Japan.

Shirakaba Sansou is actually housed together with Ajisai under Hokkaido Marche, but I chose to review them separately in case some of these eatery decided to brand out from Hokkaido Marche eventually.

Shirakaba Sansou @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/shirakabasansou

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Ajisai 味彩

Published October 24, 2019 by piggie

Hakodate Shio Ramen, $12

This actually wasn’t my first visit to Hokkaido Marche’s Ajisai. The first time I had their spicy ramen, but this time round, I wanna try their signature, the Hakodate Shio Ramen. Hailing from the southern Hokkaido city, Ajisai came from the region famous for Shio ramen with a rich history of 80 years. They claimed their broth was made using pork, chicken, and natural rock salt on a base of kelp produced in southern Hokkaido.

I can’t deny their presentation looking kind of appealing, in fact, the above picture was stirred so that I can show the charshu hidden underneath, otherwise, the presented ramen looks like this:

Nice looking eh?

OK, now the harsh truth…

I had mentioned before, that there are 3 distinct species ramen in Hokkaido, namely Miso (Sapporo), Shoyu (Asahikawa), and Shio (Hakodate). Hakodate’s Shio ramen are generally boiled with some kind of seafood, such as sardines, kelp, etc, along with pork or chicken broth, or both, to give out a clear broth in light flavour. And personally, I feel Shio ramen is the most difficult to impress among these, because if too light, there may be little difference in comparison with just using salt, then the broth very well ends up worse off than instant noodles’. Unfortunately, that was the impression I had for this ramen. I need to reiterate, that I had tried Shio ramen before, both locally and in Hakodate, and this broth here is by far the blandest, apart from the presence of salt. To be honest, I can think of a few means to improve the flavour without taking away the fact that it being a Shio ramen, and that I feel a Shio ramen broth shouldn’t just taste like salt water, the chef needs to bring out the taste of other ingredients, otherwise why bother adding them in the first place? And without those, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be looking at eating ramen at such price. The saving grace is that, at least the medium thickness noodle is chewy, and that the egg is sweet, with charshu flavourful.

Kara Miso Ramen, $14

I mentioned earlier that this wasn’t my first time patronising Ajisai. In fact, my first time was much more satisfactory with their Kara Miso Ramen, which I presume, aren’t their forte in the first place. I actually ordered that because I was craving for something spicy, and for a moment, I had forgotten that they are from Hakodate. The reason why I didn’t blog about this earlier was the lack of time. To be honest, I think their Kara Miso ramen contains more ingredients in comparison (cost more too), but those are literally fungus, and some other vegetables that I don’t think alter much flavour, just that their broth tastes so much desirable. Others such as egg, medium thick noodles, and charshu remain consistently good. OK, credit has to go to the Miso paste they used perhaps. At least I can say, this is that sort of ramen that I will return for, but I can’t say the same for their Shio ramen.

Ajisai @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/ajisai

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Tiger Street Lab

Published October 24, 2019 by piggie

The brand Tiger Beer pretty much projecting Tiger Street Lab in Jewel Changi Airport as a drinking bar, but in fact, it’s more than that, it’s a collaboration with Keng Eng Kee Seafood (瓊榮記海鲜), and somewhat turned this premise into more of an eatery, therewith getting in line with Tiger Beer’s concept that their beer goes well with local food, and by setting up this first global experiential concept store at Jewel Changi Airport, I can sense their ambition to bring this idea in reaching out to visitors from all over the world.

Tiger Street Lab offers an open air dining aura that reminiscence a casual eatery, and despite situated in-house inside Jewel, the mid-noon sun can still be rather unforgiving. I understand visitors from the colder countries may love this, but for locals, who are over exposed to scorching sun on a daily basis, naturally prefer tables with shade, good thing Tiger Street Lab has a mixture of these.

Without further ado, let’s get into their food!

Moonlight Horfun, $10+

First, allow me to highlight, that this was a custom order. The legit order should have a raw egg yolk on top to represent moonlight, but the attentive waitress was sensitive enough to inform us that children may be a little allergic to the raw egg on top, so she suggested to have it well fried and stirred with the noodles. Kudos to their service standard! Nonetheless, this Horfun is well fried with great heat (wok hei), exuding an aroma of a typically excellent horfun, and it has a good portion of shrimps, squids, and sausages. It was so great, that we actually ordered two plates to share.

Truffle Fries, $10+; Crispy Chicken Wings, $14+

These are the kid’s order actually, who actually couldn’t finish them all, and I merely helped on the fries, so no comment on the chicken wings, but as for the fries, it was fried adequately, crisp on the outside and soft inside, and what made it special got to be the truffle oil infused mayonnaise dip.

Chicken Cutlet in Tiger Lemon Radler Sauce, $18+

The description stated, “Crispy and tender chicken cutlet coated in tangy lemon sauce reduced from Tiger Lemon Radler”, I am a little sceptical about that. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t saying this ain’t good, quite the contrary, it was probably the best dish on our table. But I’m a lover of Tiger Lemon Radler, I’m pretty sure it isn’t thick enough to be reduced to become gravy. LOL! And actually, the lemon aroma was much more dominant than a can of Lemon Radler goes, and as you can see from the picture, the presence of lemon slices probably suggested that additional lemon juice, and possibly the inclusion of starch, are used in making this an exceptional savoury dish. It is possibly the best lemon chicken I’ve ever tried! Highly recommended.

Black Pepper Soft-shell Crab, $15+

Singapore’s chilli crab is famous in the region, but we decided to order something not as spicy, having its black pepper version instead. Now, I’m gonna elaborate how Tiger Street Lab, or for that matter, Keng Eng Kee Seafood are thoughtful for the diners, firstly here, by substituting all crabs on their menu with soft-shell crabs, thereby eliminating the hassle in eating crabs. Some may argue the taste may be a little different, though I agree to a certain extent, but let’s not forget their main targeted customers are still visiting tourists who may have a flight to catch, or who may have other activities in town, depending whether they are departing or arriving Singapore. And, for cases like us, who have kid among our rank, this was a very welcome attempt! While as expected, the black pepper coating ain’t likely leaving as deep an impression like its chilli crab counterpart, it’s still nonetheless chewy and offers a glimpse of how the real stuff would taste like. And particularly, I have to mention I love the fried buns (man tou), crisp on the outside, and very fluffy on the inside, and while dipping in the accompanied black pepper crab sauce, it was simply delectable!

Cereal De-shelled Prawns, $15+

Once again, their sincerity was shown in abundance through this dish. It’s quite unusual that Tze-char stalls bother to de-shell the prawns, these are extra works, and perhaps some may argue that by removing the shell, out also went some of the flavour of the dish. Personally, I like it this way, even as a Singaporean, I’m still struggling at de-shelling prawns and crabs, part of the reason why sometime I’m sceptical in ordering such dishes. I have to say, at $15, the price is considered reasonable given the amount of prawns, the cereals, as well as the effort. Rarely had I seen such generousity on the cereal, but on the other hand, I have to confess this dish fall short of expectation due to the lack of curry leaves. As such, the cereal prawns are somewhat on the salty side without the tint sweetness and spiciness of adequate curry leaves to counterbalance its flavour. Pity, this can go so much better.

I’m coming to the end of this review, but sharp eye readers may find that I missed out on an essential ingredient… Tiger Beer. Well, it wasn’t our fault really, we ordered a special Red Dragon Fruit Lager, but it never came. And as we were feeling excessively full after the meal, we simply requested the waitress to void that order upon settling the bill. I have to say, Tiger Street Lab offers a few exclusive Tiger Beer flavour not found in the market, so if you are dining here and crave for a drink, I suggest avoid getting the usual suspects, go for something exceptional. It may cost a few dollars more, but it’s a deserving experience.

Oh, by the way, Tiger Street Lab also sells merchandises, but these ain’t cheap.

Tiger Street Lab
Jewel Changi Airport
78 Airport Boulevard #05-205
Singapore 819666
Tel: +65 62432047
Website: https://tigerbeer.com.sg/tiger-street-lab/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 09:00 hr – 03:00 hr