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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Indian Cuisine - Murg Saagwala

I come to you today with another beautiful green Indian curry.  This Murg Saagwala is a curry that should not be too dry, but there should also not be too much gravy as well.

The flavour is mild, and goes perfectly with naan.  





Ingredients

·         Mustard Oil – 4 or 5 TBS
·         Diced Red Onion – 1 large onion
·         Salt – to taste
·         Ginger Garlic Paste – 1.5 TBS
·         Diced Green Chilli – 2 or 3 pieces
·         Turmeric – 1 TSP
·         Red Chilli Powder – 1 TSP
·         Cumin Powder – 1 TBS
·         Coriander Powder – 1.5 TBS
·         Diced Tomatoes – 3 or 4 medium sized
·         Mock ‘chicken’ or ‘mutton’ Meat – depending on how much you want
·         Fresh Coriander Leaves – 1 bunch
·         Fresh Mint Leaves – 1 bunch
·         Fresh Spinach 1 bunch
·         Kastoori Methi – 2 TBS
·         Nutmeg Powder – 1 TSP
·         Garam Masala Powder – 1 TSP
·         Coconut Cream – 100-150g

Instructions

1.      The first step to making any green Indian curry is blanching the spinach.  For this curry, to add extra flavour, you are required to blanch not only the spinach leaves, but also the mint and coriander leaves.  Once they have been blanched, put them all in a blender, and blend until a fine sauce is produced – Then put it to one side (coriander and spinach can be equal quantity, mint about half the quantity).
2.       In a vessel, add mustard oil and allow it to come to a boil.  When it has come to a boil, and then add finely diced onions.  Cook these onions until they are golden brown.  Add salt to speed up the process.
3.       Once they have cooked, add ginger garlic paste and cook until the raw flavour is gone.
4.       It is now time to add the masala spices.  Add chopped green chilli, red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder and shortly after, add the diced tomatoes – Cook all these ingredients very well.
5.       Now it is time to add your mock meat – For this dish, you can add any mock meat.  Or if you are against mock meat, you can replace it with potato (saag aloo) and it would taste just as great!
6.       After another 5 minutes of cooking, now add the spinach/mint/coriander sauce (see Step 1) into the vessel, and cooking for another 3-4 minutes, mixing the ingredients together well.
7.       Into this mixture, add kastoori methi, garam masala powder and nutmeg powder.
8.       After a few more minutes of cooking, add coconut cream.  This dish could actually be served without the coconut cream, but I find it adds a nice richness to the texture of the curry.
9.       Done!



Indian Cuisine - Ragda Patties

One aspect of Indian cooking that I have neglected (up until now) are the notorious Indian chaats - Which, can more simply be called - Street food snacks.  Indian street food comes in many weird and wonderful colours and flavours. But for today, I will be sharing how to do one of the more common chaat's, called Ragda Patties.

Indian chaats are famous for their fresh flavours, and infamous for confining those with non-Indian stomachs to the lavatory for days.  Don't worry, this recipe is authentic, but not that authentic.





Ingredients

·         Potatoes - 250grams
·         Fresh Coriander - one bunch
·         Salt - to taste
·         Green Chilli - 2 pieces (diced)
·         Cumin Powder
·         Coriander Powder
·         Red Chilli Powder
·         Breadcrumbs
·         Oil
·         White Peas
·         Green Peas
·         Red Onions
·         Ginger Garlic Paste
·         Turmeric
·         Tomato
·         Fennel Powder
·         Garam Masala
·         Green Mint Chutney
·         Chaat Masala
·         Black Salt
·         Sweet Samosa Chutney
·         Cashew Nut Cream
·         Saav
·         Lime


Instructions

1.      This dish can be a little spilt into two tasks.  Firstly, preparing the patties, and then combining the patties with all the glorious toppings (including the famous ragda curry).
2.       To make the patties is pretty simple.  All you must do is mixed together mashed potatoes, finely chopped green chilli, chopped coriander, salt, coriander powder, red chilli powder (little bit only), and cumin powder, and breadcrumbs.  Mix all these together, and make into the shape of patties.
3.       MAKING RAGDA CURRY - Boil the white peas and green peas until they are almost full cooked (almost mushy in texture).  In a pan, add diced onion, ginger garlic paste, turmeric, salt and cook for some time.  After this add a little red chilli powder and tomato paste.  After the tomato paste has been cooked, add a concoction of powders – Coriander, cumin and garam masala powder.  In this add mint chutney sauce and then cook for longer.  Once all these ingredients are cooked, you can add the white and green peas into this mixture.  The curry is almost done, just add a little water to thin it out, and add black salt and chaat masala for extra flavour.
4.       Now it is time to cook the patties and bring all the aspects of this dish together.  Place the patties on a tava or flat-based pan (add oil) and cook them evenly on both sides.
5.       It is now time to plate the dish.  First, place two patties in a bowl and pour a generous amount of the ragda curry on top.  Then add raw chopped red onion, raw diced tomato, mint chutney, sweet (samosa) chutney, fresh chopped coriander, cashew nut cream (this is to replaced curd), pinch of garam masala powder, bit of chaat masala (Or black salt) and finally top it off with saav and sprinkle lime juice on top.
6.       Eat and witness your senses get assaulted.  Done!



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sembawang Durian Seng - XO, Green Bamboo

During my recent never-ending quest for top quality durian and reliable durian sellers - I found myself in the Sembawang area.  This is a very small stall, located directly outside a unisex hair salon (if you want your hair to smell like durian, this is where to get your haircut).  The stall is run by Mr Yap, who has been in the durian game for over 35 years.


Sembawang Durian Seng
Location: 12 Jalan Tampang, Sembawang Garden Arcade
Contact: 93441512, 97598265



Mr Yap is probably one of the most eccentric characters you are likely to meet on the durian scene.  He is notorious for giving unbelievable discounts to his customers, the like of which I have definitely never seen before.  Moreover, he is even known to give all his durians away for free on special occasions, such as his birthday.  Mr Yap sells many different types of durian, but his pride and joy is a durian called lao tai po (老太婆), which is literally translated to mean 'old woman'.  Unfortunately, his lao tai po was not available during my visit, but I will test this durian out soon - You have my word!
Ironically, like some tortured artist, Mr Yap actually doesn't like eating durian.  The whole notion of a durian seller who hates eating durian really perplexes me.  But like I said, Mr Yap is quite a unique character. 
The texture of the flesh of XO almost always determines what flavour you will get.  If the durian has a firmer more creamy texture, then the flavour will have a delicious vanilla aftertaste.  If the flesh is more watery, it will have a strong alcohol aftertaste (due to the longer fermentation time inside the husk).  The XO durian that I picked out was pretty big (XO and Golden Phoenix are two of the smallest durians, some as small as a grapefruit).  Texture wise this was definitely as creamy as an XO can get.  The flesh is highly fibrous and lumpy, and had a delightful vanilla milk type taste.

Price: $12.00/kg.     7/10


Although I felt a little disappointed with the lack of lao tai po, I was elated to see Mr Yap had one solitary huge piece of Green Bamboo available.  This bamboo was an absolutely beast of a durian.  Green bamboo is notorious for being one of the most difficult durians to open, with it having an incredibly hard husk.  If you are planning to buy this durian, make sure to get the seller to open and packet it for you.  Like most things in life, bigger is better - Small green bamboo's are often discarded, as it is only the bigger types that have the best flesh.  This particular had delicious thick creamy flesh.  It certainly doesn't have the complexity of flavour of mao shang wang, but it is still an enjoyable smooth sweet durian.  Seed size is medium.

Price: $16.00/kg.     8/10


**note - the prices given above are not fixed, Mr Yap rewards customers who buy many durians.  So the more you buy, the greater the free goodies and discounts you will get!

Conclusion - Due to Mr Yap's quirky style of generosity, this must surely make this stall one of the 'must visit' durian stalls in Singapore, if you're looking for great durians at the cheapest possible price.  I loved this little stall, and will definitely return again soon for their lao tai po!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Green Vegetarian - Commonwealth

I've had a few requests from readers suggesting I check out this inconspicious stall, located just a stone's throw awat from Commonwealth MRT.  They were specifically eager for me to sample the 白米粉, which is more simply known as white bee hoon.  The stall does have a heady list of other dishes, but almost all were not available on this particular day.

 
Green Vegetarian
Location: Koufu Food Court, 46 Tanglin Halt Road, #01-12
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours:
Daily 6.00am - 10.00pm

Needless to say, my first target was inevitablly going to be the White Bee Hoon and Dishes.  One thing that impressed me about the bee hoon was the smokey aroma that it had, this is truly a bee hoon that is packed with flavour.  Moreover, the texture was just ideal.  For the dishes, I opted to go for the eggplant, mock meat and kelp.  Eggplant is one of my most beloved vegetables, and I was pleased to see they have a nice creamy texture.  The mushroom stem derived mock meat also had delicious flavour.  It is easy to see why this white bee hoon is so popular at this stall.

Price: $3.50.     7/10


Another dish ordered was the White Rice and Dishes.  Certainly the dishes on offer at Green Vegetarian looked fresh and appetising, and the taste was certainly nice too.  People may have an issue with the pricing, as $3.80 is quite a significant price to pay, especially as it's only white rice.

Price: $3.80.     7/10



Conclusion - If you're in the Commonwealth area, then you should definitely visit Green Vegetarian at least once, to try their famous white bee hoon. 

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 6/10

Monday, July 22, 2013

Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant - Hong Kong

During my Hong Kong visit, our home base was Wanchai, which is an awesome place to find vegetarian food.  Eventually though, we ventured out of Wanchai to explore what other vegetarian offerings are available in different parts of Hong Kong.  Three Virtues has gained a formidable reputation for offering, perhaps, the best quality vegetarian dim sum in the entire country.  Admittedly, I am not a huge dim sum fan, so I was hoping my visit to Three Virtues would transform my way of thinking about this popular breakfast/lunch meal.


Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 1/F , 395 King's Road, North Point, Hong Kong
Contact: (852) 2586-1333
Opening Hours: Daily until 9pm

This restaurant is bustling, but incredibly well run and efficient establishment.  For those who visit Hong Kong restaurants, you will notice the staff uphold a mesmerizing high level of service, with empty plates rarely staying at your table for more than a few seconds.  The staff in Hong Kong definitely earn their service charge - Unlike a lot of eateries in Singapore, where they have service charge, yet the staff barely do anything to assist you.  Pictured is the full menu for the dim sum.  If you can't read or speak Chinese, don't bother coming to Three Virtues, unless you want to blindly point and guess what to order.


There was one 'dim sum' dish that I was looking forward to trying more than any other - Fish Ball Curry.  Thankfully, I was not left feeling disappointed by this wonderfully mild curry.  Considering fish ball curry is one of Hong Kong's well-known dishes, I was surprised that more vegetarian eateries weren't concocting their own version of this dish.  In fact, Three Virtues was the only place I encountered that was offering it.  The fish balls in this dish were sensational - Completely different to those horrible lumps of hard jelly that are sold in Singapore.  They are bouncy, juicy and had an intriguing golden outer skin that enhanced the flavour.  The curry itself was full of flavour.

Price: HK$22.00.     9/10


The Superior Boiled Dumpling Soup was one of the dishes I liked the least from Three Virtues.  The skin of the dumplings were tough and too chewy.  Moreover, the skin had a tendency of sticking together.  The soup base was quite flavourless.

Price: HK$18.00.     5/10
The next dish arrived delicately wrapped in beancurd sheets, and goes roughly by the name Four Treasures Bamboo Shoots Chicken Wraps.  The beancurd sheets were juicy and enjoyable to eat.  However, I found the 'chicken' stuffing inside to be lacking in any imagination.  Inside was diced vegetables and mock soy meat.  The dish was crying out for some kind of dipping sauce, which unfortunately was never provided.

Price: HK$22.00.    6/10


Here is another dim sum delicacy called Five Grains Siew Mai Dumpling.  The skin of this dim sum was quite pleasing.  But ultimately, I found it terribly dry when eaten alone.  Eating it alone is the only option as, once again, there is no dipping sauce.

Price: HK$18.00.     6/10
Next up was the Vegetarian Prawn Dumpling with Abalone Bits.  This dish was a little more juicy, but I found the assortment of vegetables inside to be void of almost any flavour.

Price: HK$22.00.     5/10
One of the most synonymous dim sum dishes is definitely the Maple Sauce Char Siew Bao.  Overally I found this dish to be a little dry.  he char siew stuffing inside was sweet, but didn't have much else to offer.

Price: HK$16.00.     6/10
I was curious to try the Flossed Needle Mushroom Chee Cheong Fan as I've never really had vegetarian chee cheong fan in Singapore.  I was not disappointed by this dish.  The hero of this dish was the sweet dark sauce that is given with it.  I urge you to pour this sauce liberally over the rice rolls and enjoy!

Price: HK$18.00.     8/10


Finally we have the Shanghai Xiao Long Bao, again this falls into the category of lacking any substantial flavour, and being too dry.

Price: HK$18.00.     5/10











Conclusion - Did this restaurant managed to convert me to becoming a dim sum lover?  Definitely not.  Dim sum, honestly, is something that I can't comprehend why it is so popular with most people.  The dim sum on offer at Three Virtues was decent, but often I found them to be too dry, lacking in any significant flavour, and missing dipping sauces.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 6/10

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Loving Heart Cafe - Aljunied

I've received a couple of emails and comments urging me to head back down to Loving Heart Cafe, as the place has had a change of management.  Sure enough, upon arriving, the place certainly does look quite different.  In the past, Loving Heart Cafe looked almost identical to Loving Hut - But now the bright orange interior makes this eatery a little more unique.  Although there has been a significant change to the interior, the menu has remained pretty much the same.


Loving Heart Cafe
Location: Blk 134 Geylang East Ave 1, #01-219
Contact:
67442029
Opening Hours:
Tue-Thur 10am - 10pm. Closed Wednesday.



CLOSED DOWN - As of 22/10/2014
 
This restaurant is 100% vegan, and (similarly to Loving Hut) is under the Supreme Master 'name'.  You will see television screens playing their infamous Supreme Master TV, which is run predominantly by the well-known blonde-haired Vietnamese Master Ching Hai.
The first time I visited/reviewed Loving Heart Cafe was almost two years ago, and the one item that stuck in my mind the most was the Black Pepper Burger.  This burger was one of the most affordable and high quality burgers that I had sampled in Singapore.  Therefore, this time around, I wanted to ensure that the quality had not diminished.  Unfortunately, I did find that the quality of this burger has taken a turn for the worse.  The burger bun was not as nicely toasted as before - Due to this, the ingredients and the bread tended to have quite a soggy consistency.  Still a good value burger, though.

Price: $2.50.     6/10


Next dish that made its way to the table was the Minced Mushroom Noodle.  I was impressed by the quality and freshness of the vegetables and noodles in this dish.  The noodles were cooked well and had suitable QQ texture.  The mushroom sauce was full of flavour and matched well with the beansprouts and pieces of mushroom.  I also enjoyed the soup, which accompanied this dish.  Although I am certainly more of a rice person, I still found this dish enjoyable and had no problems finishing the entire bowl.

Price: $3.00.     7/10


During my previous visit I tried the fried chicken rice, which I found to be pretty decent.  This time around I went for the Hainanese Fragrant Rice (Steamed) - Otherwise known as 飯.  This was definitely the highlight of the meal for me.  Although the price may be off putting to the more money conscious customers, I found it to be worth the cost.  Firstly, it is presented beautifully on the plate.  The elongated white plate allows for the ingredients to be lined up in a perfect uniform pattern.  Flavour wise, the red chilli sauce had the right amount of zest and spice.  The greens were fresh and crunchy.  The mock steamed 'chicken' was juicy and flavourful.  Overall, this is an incredibly solid version of 'chicken' rice, which takes some beating.

Price: $4.00.     8/10


Conclusion - If you're looking for 100% vegan food in Singapore, then Loving Heart Cafe should definitely be on your list of places to visit.  Although I was slightly disappointed with the burger, I found that the rest of the dishes were of excellent quality, with reasonable pricing to match.

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading - D13, XO & D88

The biggest goal I have from posting about durians, is to highlight durian sellers who are honest, trustworthy, and sell good quality durians at a fair price.  Using the aforementioned as a criteria for a good durian stall, then Kong Lee Hup Kee is probably the best durian stall in Singapore. 


Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading
Location: Blk 440 Pasir Ris Dr. 4, #01-03
Contact: 98517753

 
This small stall is run by a husband and wife team, named Mr and Mrs Chia.  The ambiance of this almost like a family home.  With their grandson usually appearing in the background of the stall.  Amazingly, Mr Chia has been selling durians for almost 40 years now.  He is probably still most well-known for his Tiger Hill Durians stall, which existed on Waterloo Street, in the 1980's.
Mr & Mrs Chia work in harmony together, and really do their best to ensure the durian that you take away is of the highest quality.  Mr Chia is very open to sharing his decades of knowledge on durians, and will show you exactly what you should be looking for when picking out a good durian.
D13 can be known as a 'poor man's mao shang wang' simply because a lot of its characteristics are similar to Singapore's most popular durian.  Because of this reason, sly durian seller's often sell D13 under the name 'mao shang wang'.  To avoid falling into this trap, study up on how to identify a real mao shang wang - The most obvious sign in the 'star' shape that is at the bottom of the fruit.
From the outside, the D88 just looks like a typical medium sized pear-shaped durian, which is pretty similar to many species.  It is only when the durian is opened up, that you can behold its true glory.  The flesh is stunning, with gigantic pasty yellow pearls staring back at you.
XO durian is one of the smaller durian species, the flesh is typically watery, clumpy and bitter.  It is famous for having a distinctively alcoholic aftertaste.
Out of the three durians that I sampled, D13 was definitely the sweetest.  The flesh does resemble mao shang wang slightly.  But it is evident the quality is vastly different.  The flesh doesn't have the complexity of flavours that MSW has.  The flesh is a little on the watery side, and the seed is significantly bigger than MSW.  A nice light durian, but nothing too outstanding to take note of.

Price: $8.00/kg.     6/10 

After seeing the D88 inside the sytrofoam box, I wasn't expecting much from it.  It looked a little raw and seemed like huge seeds were lurking underneath the flesh.  However, I actually really enjoyed this durian.  Although it is not as top quality as golden phoenix or MSW, it is still a great value durian, that has both excellent taste and texture.  The seeds are surprisingly small, and the flesh is thick.  This is not a durian you should be putting in the refrigerator - As I found that the flesh becomes too hard.  The texture of the flesh is ideal at room temperature.

Price: $8.00/kg.     7/10

This season I've faced a lot of disappointment when it came to finding a perfect XO durian.  Mostly, the species is guilty of being too watery.  The XO durian that Mr Chia sells, however, is definitely the best I have had all season.  XO is always going to be a little watery, but this durian was about 80% creamy and 20% watery - Just perfect.  If you find that the texture is still too watery, then refrigerating the durian overnight will harden the flesh.  Texture wise I found this XO was outstanding, the only let down was the lack of alcoholic flavour, which XO typically has.  However, I did notice a dominant vanilla flavour, which was highly intriguing.

Price: $12.00/kg.     8/10


Conclusion - Who would have thought that a small little stall in Pasir Ris is one of the best durian stalls in Singapore.  This review has helped to highlight Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading's 'lesser' durians, which you can purchase at a more affordable price.  My next review of Mr & Mrs Chia's stall will take a look at the more high quality durians that can be purchase during the main durian season.
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