Thursday, June 28, 2007

Undiscovered Treasures

Yang Zhou Fried Prawn Noodles
Blk 40, Beo Cresent
Coffee Shop Opposite Beo Cresent Market
Hours: 3pm t0 8pm or earlier
Closed on Fridays

Mum always has this advice for me during my childhood years when dining out at hawker centers.:

  1. Do not be attracted by long queues without knowing what's ahead.
  2. Do not be bias by any form of media hype.
  3. Use your own judgement on taste, (especially now that u are a professional chef.)
  4. Experience counts, look for older hawkers who may be slow but the patience is worth it.
  5. Look for tell tale signs of the quality of food based on the stall's outlook. If everything is catered, then u know better.
  6. Mature estates' hawkers often have better tasting grub.

Well, mum is right most of the time. I have always kept this in mind when I go around. Beo Cresent market is one of my favourite chow destinations as I grew up around this estate in the 70's where there were fantastic stalls selling Carrot Cake, Cantonese Congee,Kueh Tutu etc till the wee hours of the morning. Most of the good hawkers are either gone or have moved away.

Lately I happen to pass by this familar stretch in the evening when my nose caught the familar whiff of pork lard cracklings and clanking of the wok spatula scrambling eggs till they foamed. It's the old uncle at helm again, frying his delicious prawn noodles away in a great broth. Mind you the last time I came by around 715pm in the evening, he was already doing the last order since opening at 3pm. This must really be one of those good life hawkers working only a couple of hours a day. A modest stall, no media hype or publicity, this almost toothless uncle fries every plate with passion and pride. No rolex, no gold chain or heavy jade to show off with, each plate of his prawn noodles is moist but not dripping wet and yet had the full flavour of a rich meaty stock. Steam from the noodles evolved a seductive lard fragrance yet they were not greasy on the palate and portions were generous. This is truly one of the best I have ever tasted and the other being at Whampoa Food Centre. The chili was fantastic fragrant with dried shrimps and reasonably nice amount of spiciness. A squeeze of lime brings every dimension into harmony. U can ask for more chili but i prefer to keep things simple.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cooking Classes Week 18/06/07-23/06/07

This week we had a few snap shots of the recipes that we cooked over the various culinary workshops as scheduled. Much appreciation to those who turn up for their support. Below are some of the dishes that everyone got to taste......Linguine Pasta with Mushrooms (Shitake,Oyster and Buna Shimeji) Sauce

and Truffle Oil

Lemon Thyme Grilled Chicken with Pickled Fennel and Tomato Concasse

Marinated Strawberries with Balsamico Vinegar and Black Pepper,

Vanilla Ice Cream

BBQ Smoked Orange Pork Ribs with Spicy Fresh Potato Wedges

Honey Mustard Dip and Real Coleslaw

Next Week: Grilled Sirloin Steak with Mushroom Sauce, Potatoes Au Gratin, Pumpkin Soup with Ginger and Sesame Croutons

If u are a new Visitor and keen to experience what we have cooked in the above pictures or future workshops, please email to

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lah Kopi (Coffee Stirring)

Wiener Kaffeehaus
148 Neil Road Singapore 088877
Tel: 65 6226 3148
Operating Hours 10.00am - 10.00pm

Nestled at the corner on the junction between Neil and Cantonment Roads is a coffee house that had been quietly packing in the crowds who come to appreciate their Viennese Style coffee making and brewing. Wiener Kaffeehaus is a factory, restaurant and retail shop packed into one such unit. N and I have been here several times to appreciate their various styles of coffees and traditional Austrian Sacher Torte. We love to chill out by coming here to do some reading and to enjoy its hospitality warmth and roasted coffee aromas. The cafe owner Anton Wessiman is an affable individual who mingles with and greets every table of his customers besides doing hands on in helping out with service and order taking with a sense of humour.

The coffee house deco is inspired from traditional kaffeehauses in Vienna with wall mounted lamps, crystal chandeliers and a cozy atmosphere. Art pieces sculptured by famous Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt grace the walls of the coffeehouse and some of his works have also been imprinted into the design of table lamps around. An area between the dinning room and kitchen is the playground for Anton. Here, the coffee enthusiast roast, grinds and packs his coffee beans with modern technology and traditional formulas. Besides serving it at the cafe, these freshly produced coffee powders with different blends are also available for retail. Though it's a Viennese coffeehouse by theme, the menu also features different ways of appreciating coffee with different brewing techniques and drinking cultures from around the globe. From Italian cappuccinos to Vietnamese drip coffees, there is enough variety to please most coffee aficionados.
Food wise, it’s a showcase of Austrian grubs with sausages, goulash, Cordon Bleu roast beef and Wiener Schitzel as main highlights. There are home made potato salads, deep fried Camembert Cheese and various leafy salads for lighter appetites. On the past two visits, we tried some of their items, food was consistently good although some items could be better.

The Deep Fried Camembert Cheese was oozing from its crust when served. You could choose to dip with a tartare sauce or have it smeared with a little strawberry jam. We preferred the former as the cheese was deep fried, finding the tanginess in the tartare sauce a better compliment due to the greasiness of the crust. Goulash Soup, which was a specialty of the house, came with a rather boring presentation. While the taste of the broth was still decent, the chunky character of the soup was missing with the few measly pieces of potatoes and meat. Sprinkling on the soup with dried parsely only made the soup looked more dull and tired and I wish there was also a touch of sour cream.
All the main courses that we tried fared much better. The Wiener Schiztnel (choice of pork or chicken) was one great dish of its own. Almost covering the entire plate, the breaded piece of chicken came hot, crispy and with just a squeeze of lemon or tartare sauce, N was happily engaged in deconstructing the schnitzel as I snapped pictures of the veal bratwurst. Most sausages in the pub grub and cafe menus are pretty standard and the only way to distinguish your dish is to make a rich onion gravy packed with oomph! This is what Anton just did and it made the bratwurst taste even better! I figured it must have take quite a bit of caramelized onions to achieve the robust taste of the gravy and the sweetness of the onions went very well with the salty character of such sausages.
On our second visit, we took on the Cordon Bleu and Farmers Platter. The Cordon Bleu was like a Schniztel Wrapped around a piece of ham and cheese. Needless to say, when we cut across, the aromas of melted cheese and ham simply just raised your appetite by another ten notches. The Farmers Platter was like a tasting dish on its own with smoked pork, Austrian style roast pork and a prettily cut frankfurter over the “dough” ball which is actually made from the same dough in the production of spatzle or Austrian-German noodles. Sauerkraut braised with cumin seeds and bacon forms the base on where the succulent pieces of pork rest on. The slow roasted pork collar was beautifully tender while the Smoked Cured Pork Loin tasted like premium ham. Atkin’ Dieters will love this dish for its low carbo high protein character and just the meat alone itself is already quite filling. Signature desserts here are all classic European favourites like Sachertorte, Apple Strudel and Linzer tart.

Sauchertorte is served slightly warm with whipped cream and this all dark chocolate flavoured cake with a thin coating of chocolate icing goes extremely well with any coffee on the menu. I like the Linzer Tart which is a famous raspberry jam tart from the city of Linz in Austria. Made with grounded roasted hazelnuts as its crust, the tart is criss cross with extra pastry creating diamonds of red rubies before being dusted with snow powder. The crust is all buttery and nutty with richness and simply divine. Apple strudel is made the traditional way with the stuffing of apples, raisins, cinnamon spice and crumbs wrapped in layers of phyllo pastry. This is nothing close the Aussie version that many places offer here in Singapore which, is more like a mille feuillete with custard cream.
Coffee drinking here is much more of an art and culture appreciation. U can have Vietnamese Drip coffee or the Turkish Brew with hints of Arabic Spices. Irregardless of your choice, all coffees are served traditional Austrian style on silver trays with a glass of water to rinse the palate just before you leave. N and I have tried a few variations and those with liquor are especially good like Maria Theresa. I love their Cappuccino and Latte but my favourites are still the single Kleiner and Honey Affogato.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wolfing Down By the River

Brasserie Wolf
The Pier @ Robertson
80 Mohamed Sultan Road
Singapore 239013
Tel: 68357818
Our last experience in a brasserie was in Le Nord (accredited with the legendary Master Chef Paul Bocuse) in the French city of Lyon during the month of January this year which left us with a better impression than the ones we have been to in Paris. Back home, we have heard rave reviews of a new and happening place by the river called Brasserie Wolf, which is the latest baby of the Esmirada Group. N and I decided that this would be the place to take our close friend Karen for her birthday treat since she also loves checking out new places.
While the restaurant looks new and modern from the outside, its interior is decorated with Parisian art pieces with historical ancedotes, giving it a retro feel back to the 1800s. Service staffs are decked in modern garb instead of the traditional brasserie uniforms which pulls us back to reality of the present day.
The beverage menu is dominated by regional French wines, with snippets of Spanish, Italian and New World bottles for variety sake. Traditional French fare designed by Chef Philippe Nouzillat, makes up most of the food menu with specialties from regional areas.

Each of us had our own starter with extra orders of the escargots and mussels to be shared around. There was a Duck Foie Gras with Caramelized Apples and Aged Balsamic Vinegar which made N and Karen went goo goo gaga over it. A generous piece of liver was served with slightly tart caramelized green apples which would make gourmets impressed but a cholesterol nightmare for health freaks. On the palate, the acidity from the apples and vinegar helps to cut through the richness of the foie gras. The charred corners of the duck liver released notes of burnt buttery fragrance and it was also very well complimented with the Chablis in the glasses.

N enjoyed a creamy Prawn Cocktail with Avocado where chunks of prawn meat are tossed up with diced avocados in a piquant mayonnaise based cocktail sauce. It is served filled in a half avocado shell on a bed of mesclun mix with a large prawn sitting atop as a crown to the salad. K’s hubby took on the Frisee Salad with Bacon and Poached Egg, also commonly known as Lyonaise Salad. In between the bitter greens and tangy vinaigrette, the bacon chunks and warm poached egg with oozing yolk were nice alternatives between bites and crispy croutons instilled the fun element of crunch to the salad.
The Charcuterie Platter was my choice with a smorgasbord of Proscuito, Salami, Air Dried Beef and a piece of Pate Campagne. Among the selections, the salami and Proscuito were really good while the air dried beef looked tired. The pate was a little too dry for my taste and bland.
Passing around the table were two soups, a Lobster Bisque with dices of lobster instead of crabmeat as stated and a classic French Onion Soup with Comte Cheese Crouton. Nonetheless, the lobster soup was full of shellfish flavour although the colour was a little pale compared to most other bisques that I have come across with. I prefer the more macho bodied French Onion Soup with the gratin of Comte Cheese, one of my favourite French cheeses. The cheese has a nice nutty fragrance when eaten on its own, melted down, it gives a mild sharp pungency with creamy buttery notes of fragrance and roasted hazelnut notes.
The escargots and mussels got in at the same time, the “moules” steamy hot from their bath in a fruity white wine broth enriched with olive oil, garlic and parsley. Dunking pieces of bread into the delicious broth to soak up the mussel juices, it soon got everyone hooked on it in no time. Frites or French fries made from fresh potatoes where also offered but nobody seemed to pay attention to it as we were all was busy with the bread and broth.
I like the escargots here better than the ones in Le Nord. Though they were smaller than the ones we had in Lyon, the butter-garlic-parsley sauce was more aromatic than the last round.
Most of the mains came in hearty portions. There was a veal chop, a duck leg confit, a filet of black cod, a fine cut of sirloin, a crisp up braised pork trotter and a roasted spatchcock. Veal chop was a little overcooked but was saved by the fact that we had requested medium done. It would be a culinary injustice to over do the veal chop but at medium well, it was still manageable. The wild mushroom sauce was fine but I felt that it lacked a little oomph of a forest character which would have called for hints of porcini or morel flavours. Duck leg confit came on beautifully crisp without excessive greasiness on braised potatoes. Either the kitchen had forgotten about the sauce or it was supposedly to be so good that it didn't need one. Indeed it was, not too salty and fork tender that it was like eating a duck version of “Sio Bak” or Cantonese Roast Pork. The side salad also helped the duck confit to cut through the fattiness giving it a delicate balance of rich complexity and yet tangy.
The only seafood main course on the table, my black cod was served with a sauté of artichokes and tomato confit which seemed more like sun dried tomatoes in oil. Anyway they were too sour for my liking while the artichokes were fine. The fish was very well done, nice and moist flakes with sweetness. A sauce of lobster foam which tasted like the froth up lobster bisque earlier enhanced the “seafood” character of the dish with creamy shellfish notes.
Pied de Cochon or Crispy Braised Pork Trotters was a reconstituted cake of de-boned trotter meat pan fried in its own fat till crispy, served on a bed of sautéed potatoes and mushrooms. The meat was very tender, just like pulled pork in US, literally melting in mouth with rich gelatinous notes on the mouth feel.
The cock and bull were meant for Karen’s two boys and we, the adults managed to steal a bite from their plates given the generous portions when the boys where busy with their Game Boys. The Roasted Spatchcock had notes of rosemary and was lifted by pungent raw garlic infused mayonnaise. The meat was quite juicy and at times I felt that the mayonnaise was not necessary, better to have it with the French fries instead. A 250g sirloin cooked perfectly medium was too much for an 11yr old boy and certainly I wouldn't mind sharing a piece or two. The beef was cooked to a lovely pinkish red hue which would have caused saliva dripping if one had been starving. Béarnaise, a warm fresh tarragon and butter flavoured mayonnaise like sauce long forgotten on the menus here in Singapore gave the steak a sinfully rich kiss of indulgence.
Overall I felt the tastes of the dishes were fine and aesthetics on presentation with a touch of finesse. The menu prices, comparable with Reif + James, which is just a couple of units away within the same property, did not justify with the style of presentation. Of course the quality of ingredients was undeniably good and that still matters most to me.

Desserts? We adjourned to Macaron by Les Amis.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Recipe Xtra: Braised Beef Brisket with Radishes

This is one of N's favourite dishes and its comfort food that both of us grow up with. The stew gets better when kept overnight. It can also be done with beef shin which gives excellence gelatinous texture. Braising time will take longer with beef shin but the meat holds better when reheated.
Braised Beef Brisket 柱候牛腩堡

6 portions

600g Beef Brisket or shin, cut into 3 cm cubes
30g Cornstarch
30g Dark Soya Sauce
100ml Oil
6cloves Peeled Garlic
15g Sliced Ginger
150g Shallots, peeled
60g Galangal
1pc Cinnamon Stick
10 pcs Cloves
4pcs Star Anise
5g Dried Orange Peel
5g Course Ground Black Pepper
3tbsps Zhu Hou 柱候Paste
2.5liters Water
300g Radish, cut into 3cm cubes
2tbsps Light Soya Sauce

Spring Onions, blanched in oil

Preparation Method:

Combine beef brisket, cornstarch and soya sauces. Heat oil and fry beef brisket for 1 minute.

Add fresh and dry spices, sauté till fragrant. Add the Zhu Hou paste and pour in water and simmer for two hours over slow fire till meat is tender. Add radishes after the 1st hour of simmering

Adjust seasoning and sprinkle on spring onions. Serve beef brisket with rice or noodles.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Spicy Ice Cream

Kulfi Bar
15 Upper Dickson Road
Singapore 207475
Tel : 6294 2334
Opening Hours 11am-10pm

With so many ice cream parlours and specialty shops opening all over Singapore, much of the attention has been drawn to these new hippy places for gourmet ice cold delights. There are arty farty flavours like avocado and mint, new world tastes like basil and tomato and local flavours like chendol or pumpkin with sweet potato and ginger. By far, American, Danish, Italian and Japanese brands of gourmet ice creams have been making the raves along with local born establishments like Estivo @ Greenwood and Island Creamery @ Serene Center, along Bukit Timah Road. However one special place N and I discovered over the weekend was no where near any malls, or expatriate high end living areas.

Right in the heart of Little India, along Upper Dickson Road is Khulfi Bar, a café specializing in north Indian Ice Creams, Chaats and Tea Blends. It isn’t really a full bar or café as the owners also sell handicrafts and ornaments from India to. New age Indian music gives the ambience and relaxing feel and like true blue thrifty Indians, they switch on the air conditioners when a customer walks in.
Kulfi or Indian ice cream as it is commonly referred to is a frozen Indian dessert made with boiled milk that had been reduced through simmering to a rich creamy thickness with slight caramelized and malt notes, something like frozen full cream evaporated milk. Sweetened with sugar and slightly thickened with cornstarch, the Kulfi is frozen in cone shape containers. It is not aerated like commercial ice cream and does not contain eggs either. Flavours are far more exotic than your regular Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry with spices like cardamom, saffron, fruits like avocado or mango, nuts like almonds and pistachios. There is a strong Persian influence in terms of flavouring and condiments pairing up with Kulfi. This ice dessert is served in many ways with some of the commonly seen ideas are to serve them garnished with ground cardamom, saffron, or pistachio nuts. Kulfi can also be served with Faloodeh or vermicelli noodles, jellies and basil seeds.
As we just had a vegetarian dinner, I thought we might as well continue with a vegetarian dessert. I had been wanting to take N to this place since last year but some how have also missed it all the time. We took on two of their specialties with one being the Chocolate Kulfi with Faloodeh and the other a Mango and Lychee Kulfi.
Chocolate has a natural affinity for spices especially sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, cloves etc. The Chocolate Kulfi had a top note of cardamon and was complimented by small cubes of jelly, rose syrup, basil seeds and pistachio nuts. There was also a hint of rose water if I wasn’t wrong on my palate otherwise it could have been inteference from the sweet incense that perfumed the café.
I love the Mango Lychee Kulfi better as I like the sweet rich mango puree that synergised very well with the creamy malt tasting kulfi. The lychees were perked up by the ice cream and mango puree and the floral aromas of the fruit harmonised well into the combination. A generous topping of toasted almonds sealed in the pleasure of appreciating this lovely dessert.
To balance out the sweetness of the ice creams, we order two of their special teas, a Honey, Lime and Ginger Tea which had fresh calamansi lime and ginger infusion, and an unsweetened Mint Tea that tasted not only of fresh mint leaves but there were notes of eucalyptus oil which creates the “cooling” effect on the palate as the tea trickles down your throat. Both teas were served in traditional brass mugs inscribed with Indian artistry.
The little café also serves simple chaats or literally the Indians’s version of Tapas where small bites like samosas, pakoras and puris. There also simple sandwiches and wraps with Indian flavours and condiments of course! What else?............

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Maybe somtimes the pen is mightier than the "wok chan" (Wok Ladle)

My reviewing policy on all eating experiences here in this blog is that I don't talk about prices, ratings and or publish lousy places as I believe everyone needs to make living, taste is subjective and everyone has a different level of spending power. I believe my comments and expressions will not break or make a restaurant as I am only I.
But with many other food bloggers around, its has since become a force to be reckon with when opinons are unanimous or similar. The restaurant industry has begun to recognise that any paying customers can also be food bloggers and some are beginning to get nervous about what bloggers may write irregardless. I have come across restaurants who have so little self confidence about their food or chef that when someone starts to take pictures of food, they freak out. One of them was a nice place with unique theme and decor, honestly the food was rather good too. But the attitude of the service staff and their nervousness when they saw me taking food pics put me off as not being confident enough. I was told abruptly and rudely that food photos are not allowed. Huh? Taking pictures of food is harmless as customers can't steal the recipes from the chefs in the kitchen through pictures. Presentation is only appeal for the eye for the first 3.5seconds. Taste matters a life time of opinion whether the customers will return. Even if u are given the recipe, so what? I teach and I can tell from experience that culinary art is not about science or numbers. It is based on instincts and experience. Its about 'Feeling" and restaurants should be glad that people are beginning to be more appreciative of the food they eat now than before. Bloggers keep restaurants on their toes and ensure they do not become complacent as they will walk in anytime anyday as long they are open for business. Bloggers will write more than once while press reviewers will only publish once especially in Singapore. Below is an interesting excerpt taken recently from
"Restaurants vs. Bloggers: Rage Against the Machine"
In the 21st Century, High-Powered Chefs Are Forced to Listen to the Little Guy -- as Long as He Has a Keyboard

Ten years ago, in dining destinations like San Francisco, Chicago and New York, restaurant critics at newspapers and magazines reigned supreme as the final arbiters of who served up the richest foie gras, the most interesting wine list and the overall best dining experience.
That was then. Today, foie gras is practically illegal, if not politically incorrect, sommeliers have been replaced with brew masters and computer screens have become the go-to source for what's what on the dining scene. th nothing more than a keyboard, a camera phone and a lot of opinions, a group of bloggers -- often not professional writers -- are revolutionizing restaurant reviewing one post at a time and the movement has some chefs and restauranteurs angrily realizing that the only credential required to publicly flog even the most well-established hot spot is a high-speed Internet connection.
"What makes a lot of these restaurants feel special is the feeling of exclusivity and privacy and almost like a secret society," Adam Roberts, better known as
"the Amateur Gourmet," told "Because of blogs and camera phones, anyone that comes to your restaurant can take pictures and can write about it. … That stuff is kind of not there anymore."
Roasting One of New York's Famed Restaurants
Roberts, whose book "The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop and Table-Hop Like a Pro (Almost)" is coming out in August, should know. In the fall, he posted a review of Le Cirque, for many the standard in New York upscale dining, on his blog.
The post, titled "Only a Jerk Would Eat at Le Cirque," outlined a dinner that he said "confirmed his worst suspicions" about the restaurant. He and his parents, who were visiting from Florida, were seated at the back of the restaurant and served what he said was merely mediocre food.
"I thought they were really rude to us," he said. "I used my Web site to broadcast my disgruntled feelings." When Le Cirque co-owner Mauro Maccioni read the post, he took offense and responded right along with all the other readers of Roberts' blog -- in the comments section. "I'm sorry that people may feel this way when they come into our family restaurant. I'm almost in tears listening to people mock us in this piece," Maccioni wrote. "People like me do read blogs, and I am very human."
"I just thought his assessment was overly harsh. It had a sort of nasty tone," Maccioni told "I thought he might not even think we would care about something like that, and I wanted to let him know that people do pay attention. … And we want to correct things." Roberts' family was invited back to the restaurant where they were doted upon during a free meal. "That was the moment that I realized that what I was writing on my Web site had ramifications in the real world," he said. "I'm very careful. … I'm always happy to write love letters to a restaurant."
Blog Awareness Is Good Biz
Even though Le Cirque has a reputation for catering only to its well-heeled regulars, Maccioni said reading food blogs and reaching out to those blogs' readers was just sound business. "There's been an evolution in media in terms of restaurants and things that you pay attention to," he said. "Nowadays this foodie culture, and thankfully so -- they pay heed to these things and they look at [blogs]."
"Sometimes [people] have this idea that a restaurant like Le Cirque doesn't need the kind of person who looks at blogs. We do need those people," he said. "You pay attention and you try to polish your service." Recently, writers of the blog
NYCNosh commented on a restaurant's menu item -- a braised bok choi accompaniment to a main dish, saying it had too much sauce. The chef e-mailed a response to NYCNosh's writers. "He said, 'You're right. I never thought about it. I'll change it tonight,'" said Nosher, who would not reveal his real name. Nosher runs the site with his cohort, Hungry Man.
When the pair returned to the restaurant, the dish had been changed. "We know they're responding to criticism," Nosher said of chefs. Nosher thinks blogs can be a resource for chefs and restaurants, rather than a hindrance. "I can see how a chef can be sensitive about what's being said about his or her food. … I can sympathize about that," he said. "This is really an opportunity to learn what people in their restaurants [think]. They overlook at their peril. … Only a foolish person wouldn't pay attention to it. … We take very great efforts [to] pay attention, especially if we say something negative, and we offer some kind of information that would help the restaurant or the chef to overcome it."
Should Personal Blogs Wield Power?
But not everyone in the restaurant industry feels that way, particularly because personal food blogs, unlike magazines and newspapers, are often unedited and, some say, come from an ill-informed point of view.
Food Network staple and Croc-wearing celebrity chef Mario Batali, who rules over a small empire of Italian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, has been outspoken about his dislike for food blogs.
Like Batali, Chicago-based gourmand-chef-TV-personality Rick Bayless, who runs Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, is no stranger to criticism emanating from the Internet.
In 2003, Bayless was skewered by blogs and the mainstream media for hawking chicken sandwiches in national Burger King commercials. On sites like Yelp and Chowhound, anonymous critics sounded off that Bayless' restaurants no longer had great service.
Not that Bayless would know that people were saying these things.
"I don't read them," Bayless said of blogs. "Once a year I will go onto a number of local sites just to read [through] them really fast. … If I see consistency in comments, then I'll start to take note. … I could list more problems in our restaurants than anything you could see in those blogs." While Bayless doesn't disagree with the fact that food blogs may be wildly entertaining for the people who write and read them, he said he didn't believe they had a lot of value.
"Clearly there are people who know what they're talking about and people who don't know what they're talking about," he said. "The Internet is totally democratic in that regard, but it doesn't mean that everyone has to read it, and I certainly don't."
Bayless contends that food criticism is very difficult to write and not for everyone, even if they do have a high-speed Internet connection.
But Pim Techamuanvivit, the mastermind behind
Chez Pim, a San Francisco-based site that's been around since 2001, practically the Stone Age for food blogs, thinks that's just ego talking. "We're not always amateurs just because we're not being paid," Techamuanvivit said. "A lot of bloggers are really passionate food lovers, and we can just be as informed as anyone who happens to have an editor." "You can look at my blog. You can make a judgment about my experience. … People make their own judgments about the validity of my opinion," she said. "I think it's to their disservice to say … 'People say crazy things on the Internet.' I think that's ego speaking, not reason speaking."

Ed Levine, the author of the blog
Ed Levine Eats and the founder of Serious Eats, a network of blogs billed as a home for "missionaries of the delicious," straddles that line between amateur food blogger and professional restaurant reviewer, because he is both.
Levine has written regularly for magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Bon Appetit and Gourmet, over the years, and while he understands that blogs may not always be positive, he said the exchange of ideas they facilitate between restaurants and chefs was what really made them singular.
"I think the blogosphere is good for passionate eaters and good for chefs -- they need all the feedback they can get," Levine said. "You can't get a master's in restaurant criticism."
"You can be passionate about food and soak up knowledge from people and books … and then you render a judgment." Not all bloggers may be well informed in the ways of food, but neither are all restaurant reviewers, Levine said. "I don't think the blog has a monopoly on uninformed food writing."
Maybe the pen is sometimes indeed mightier than the "wok chan" (wok ladle)!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing Palates

Loke Woh Yuen Vegetarian Restaurant
20-22 Tg Pagar Rd
Singapore 088443
Tel: 62212912
N and I were circling around the few streets of Tanjong Pager looking for what to have for dinner. We couldn’t make up our mind to have Korean, Peranakan, French or Chinese. Finally we decided to park the car and browse on foot instead. Incidentally we stumbled upon Loke Woh Yuen, an old guard in the art of Chinese Vegetarian Cuisine. The restaurant also serves fond memories for N as her childhood years were spent in the areas of Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar. She remembers growing up with this restaurant that used to produce one of her favourite red bean paste stuffed pastries. Spontaneously we decided to step in as we had been eating quite a bit of meat recently and haven’t had vegetarian food for a while. It would be a nice change for our palates and for nostalgic reasons, N and I used to enjoy an occasional Chinese Vegetarian Buffet lunch @ Kingsland Restaurant during courtship days.
Stepping in is like going into one of those Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of US where modernization is the last thing on the minds of the immigrant owners. Same here @ Loke Woh Yuen, the decor has been the same ever since they shifted here more than 20 years ago. Even the teapots looked more than a generation old. Chinese Vegetarian cuisine have always been considered a culinary art on its own with Cantonese and Sichuan flavours playing a major influence to the dishes. Besides fresh vegetables, tofu, wheat gluten based mock meats, fungus and legumes, fresh herbs and spices except onions and garlic, are all part of Chinese Vegetarian cuisine. I must say that Chinese Vegetarian Cuisine is one kind of comfort food that brings an individual from indulgence back to reality with humility. As it originates with Buddhist elements and teachings, its very first recognition came from the kitchens of monasteries in Southern China. It is humble food made with natures gifts that grow from and below the earth.
For some reason pertaining to the ambience of the restaurant that it made me feel like I was back in one of those Chinese American restaurants in Fort Lauderdale back in 1999, subconsciously I also ordered a menu that most typical Americans would do too only realizing it as I was writing this post. So we ended up having Spring Rolls, Mushroom Seaweed Rolls, Fried Vermicelli with Chap Chye aka Chop Suey to the Yankees, and a Sweet and Sour Mock Meat. Unfortunately, the restaurant had also stopped producing those red bean pastries that N loved so much as a child.
Food took a while to come by which I see it positively that it will be cooked from scratched. True enough every dish arrived at its own time all piping hot. The fried vermicelli (beehoon) tasted like food cooked by grandma’s hands. There was a nostalgic feel to the taste of wok fried vermicelli laden with a thick gravy of braised mixed vegetables and wheat gluten pieces. It evoked a sense of homeliness like going back to granny’s place for dinner.
The spring rolls were huge by size, all tightly packed with shredded carrots, jicama (Bang Kwang), mushrooms and vegetarian mock chicken. Served with a sweet bean sauce, the rolls were very good with a nice crunch and sweetness from the sauce and vegetables encrusted by a crispy crackling pastry skin.
N like the Mushroom Seaweed Rolls too which to me was more like nuggets as they were coated in a thin but very crispy batter and served with cocktail mayonnaise, interestingly though. Each crispy morsel was a burst of savoury mushrooms against the background taste of seaweed.
The Sweet and Sour Mock Pork was one of the best tasting versions I have had so far. The fruity sauce with plum notes was just enough to coat each piece of skillfully prepared deep fried gluten that had been made to resemble the texture of real pork belly used in the actual dish. It didn't look nor tasted too far from the original thing and this was really delicious eaten with steamed rice. It is true that sometimes vegetarian food can get a little too oily due to some of its cooking methods but with bitter tea to cut the greasiness; it was the just perfect for me and N. Later that evening, we ended having vegetarian desserts too, but that will be in the next post.