Saturday, May 28, 2011

STEEPED IN TRADITION

Our gastronomic journey began with this intriguing appetiser of Chinese-style clam terrine

I have no idea what Heng Hwa food is until I was taken to Putien in Singapore for dinner.


In Singapore, Putien restaurant is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of Heng Hwa cuisine. Founded by Heng Hwa native Fong Chi Chung, the sole modest eatery in Kitchener Road eleven years ago has now expanded to eight modern restaurants throughout the island state and one in Jakarta. A little bird twittered that Kuala Lumpur may be next.


The restaurant is named after Putian, a coastal city in the Fujian province of China which is also the birthplace of Heng Hwa cuisine. Surrounded by the ocean and majestic mountains, the city is blessed with lush pastures and bountiful catches from the sea. Its homely, hearty fare emphasises on the innate goodness and purity of the main ingredients, with sauces and condiments used sparingly.


Putien is evidently very popular with Singaporeans as the outlet was packed to the brim the evening we dined there. Its modern, cheery ambience incorporating the restaurant's signature muted turquoise-blue shade complements the refined but rustic offerings on the menu.

Dunno about you but I love cockles! My late paternal grandfather had a penchant for these; we used to blanch tubfuls of them in hot water and relish them with sambal or freshly ground chilli dip. So the Drunken Cockles (SGD9.90++) at Putien certainly took me down memory lane. Their rich metallic accent is tempered by the sweet, mellow Chinese wine and bracing sharpness of minced garlic and bird's eye chilli. Yummy!

The Mini Shrimps with Seaweed (SGD9.90++) tasted like Japanese inari (sweet beancurd skin) but it was a shame that the tiny white shrimps barely made their presence felt amidst the subtly sweet-briny seaweed.


I'm not big on pig intestines but the meticulously hand-stuffed ‘nine-fold’ Braised Pig Intestine (SGD13.90++) was pleasantly toothsome and richly flavourful from its braising liquid. Equally good was the crisp but fluffy savoury-sweet Stir-Fried Yam (small SGD 10.90++, medium SGD 16.90++, large SGD 21.90++). The slightly chewy discs were best enjoyed with the house chilli sauce.

To cleanse the palate, we had some Iced Bitter Gourd (SGD 5.90++); dipping the long, crunchy and bitter strips in light honey sauce. I'm definitely getting on in age - I used to hate this vege!

Putien also has a seasonal menu. The arrival of spring means an abundant supply of bamboo clams from its namesake city. Larger and slightly longer than local la la clams, the Steamed Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic (small SGD 19.90++, medium SGD 29.90++, large SGD 39.90++) came with enough pungent garlic to knock you out twice! But the juicy sweet clams were absolutely sublime!

Scores of Singaporean 'floggers' have raved about the eatery's Lor Mee (small SGD7.90++, medium SGD15.90++, large SGD23.90++) – now I know why. The smooth, silky wheat noodles tasted somewhat like Hokkien mee suah. It's pure comfort food as the thick noodles come immersed in a thick, luscious soup laden with three-layered belly pork slices, la la clams, prawns, sliced black mushrooms, Chinese parsley and choy sum.

Another 'must have' classic is the Fried “Hing Wa” Bee Hoon (small SGD7.90++, medium SGD15.90++, large SGD23.90++) in which premium, super-fine rice noodles from Putian are deftly fried with peanuts, black mushroom slices, strips of beancurd puff, Chinese parsley, green vegetable and fried seaweed. Don't let its pale look fool you - the rice vermicelli is delicious.


If you fancy some home-style soup, the Braised Beancurd with Chinese Cabbage (SGD 19.90++, SGD 29.90++, SGD 39.90++) served in a black earthenware pot should go down well. You'd find handmade beancurd puffs, Chinese cabbage, clams, dried shrimps and dried scallops in the sweet, milky-white broth.

We rounded up with Chilled Bird's Nest with Pear (SGD36.90++ per person) – a luxurious mound of the gelatinous strands perched atop half a Chinese snow pear, drizzled with honey sauce. A perfect end to our rustic yet refined evening.


PUTIEN

127 Kitchener Road

Singapore 208514

Tel: (65) 6295 6358

Website: www.putien.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

THINKING OUT OF THE MLA BLACK BOX




Top toques...Mandarin Oriental snagged the overall winner title
at the recent MLA Black Box Challenge

Young guns to watch...the all-black Taylors University came in as 1st Runner-up

Event host, Hilton Kuala Lumpur consoled themselves with the 2nd Runner-up title

The knives were out and pans were fired up as teams of young chefs from some of the city's most prominent hotels and culinary schools battled it out at the Meat Livestock Australia (MLA) Black Box Culinary Challenge recently.

Aimed at raising the bar of these youthful talents, participating teams were given one hour to create a three-course menu that best showcased the various ingredients contained in a black box. Then the different teams had to swing into action; to prepare the dishes for the judging panel.
Soup's up! The Best Soup of the event was boiled up by Mandarin Oriental

While Mandarin Oriental wowed the judges to land them the Best Soup award, Taylor's University's men in black conjured up the Best Appetiser. Newbie DoubleTree by Hilton KL flexed its culinary muscle to snap up the Best Main Course and Westin KL got their sweet taste of success by landing the Best Dessert award.

Here's an overview what the competing teams whipped up.

It was admirable how creative these youngsters were. Whether it's appetiser, soup, main course or dessert, they pulled out all the stops and even cooked for some 300 invitees who showed up for the gala dinner.
Some of the appetisers (above) and main courses (below) on display

Horsing around a Country & Western theme ... a table centrepiece by Seri Pacific KL

Each hotel also had to decorate two tables for the dinner - Renaissance KL's simplest but pragmatic set-up seemed to have struck the right chord as it was awarded the Best Table Display.





Thursday, May 05, 2011

SO SHIOK IN SINGAPORE

It wasn't meant to be a food tour but old habits die hard...plus we gotta eat right? Anyway here's a snapshot of what we got up to down south recently over the long Labour Day weekend.


Ah, the sign that says it all! Yes, Mother Earth is worth saving; otherwise where else are we gonna find chocolate in the Milky Way pray tell? ;D

We stumbled on this row of Candylicious shops just outside Universal Studios - a sweet spot to get your sugar fix. There's a dedicated Hershey's & Reese's outlet and another devoted to all sorts of candies...

Smile folks! It's Candyland on camera!

Big chief here doesn't look too thrilled to find his head in such a sticky sweet situation...

Loui's Pizzeria inside Universal Studio serves the thinnest, crispiest pizzas...
we love that porky pepperoni by the way!
The other two's Hawaiian (again REAL ham mind you!) and Tandoori Chicken.

Pretty tea-infused macarons all in a row from TWG

We also trawled The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to check out what was all the hype about. This retail mecca is where anyone wishing to strike it big can access the casino or empty their pockets and max out their credit cards at the countless shops.

There's a huge ice-skating rink, a mock river where one can take the kids for a sampan ride or pig out at the eateries here. Yours truly of course succumbed to TWG's irresistible tea-infused macarons.

For lunch, we retreated to Todai for a stupendous spread of fresh seafood and international buffet! (Sorry folks, my gluttony got the better of me so there weren't any pixs of the amazing feast... which included giant spider crabs and crayfish!)



The Toy Museum is not exactly a destination by choice but we had to go as a consolation for our girl when we discovered all the Universal Studios entrance tixs were completely sold out! Being the crazy foodie that I was, I had to take some shots of these classic wind-up chef toys.



It was by sheer chance that we stumbled upon Takashimaya's Hokkaido Fair. We had an enjoyable time tasting the different Japanese delicacies available - from hand-made ramen to the freshest seafood.
Japanese glutinous rice with vegetable and hijiki seaweed. There's even one variant with sakura (cherry blossoms)!
Interesting appetiser of cuttlefish and flying fish roe flavoured with red pepper

Grilled & salted cod fish roe





Crabs, crabs and more crabs!