Famous Treasure: Modern Nanyang Chinese Cuisine


Marinated Cockles $ 12

Picture this scenario:

You have some important guests in town and you want to bring them somewhere to taste some local Chinese cuisine.  Your first choice is your favourite zi char place, but you want somewhere a little more clean and comfortable.  You could bring them to one of the many Chinese restaurants around, but they’d probably be eating the same type of dishes you could find in a typical Chinese restaurant overseas!  So what do you do?

Well, now you have the option to bring them to Famous Treasure, a newly opened restaurant in Capitol Piazza where you are able to order Fish Head curry and KL Hokkien Mee in a classy Chinese restaurant environment.  The folks at Famous Treasure don’t really like me to call their food “upmarket zi char” food, so let’s just call it modern Nanyang cuisine!


Wok fried squid with cinchalok and lady’s fingers L$ 36

So, what is “Modern Nanyang Cuisine”?  It is, essentially, our version of Chinese food that has been influenced by local ingredients as well as Malay and Indian influences.  So, you can expect dishes like their wok fried squid with cinchalok and lady’s fingers 4.25/5 which isn’t classic Chinese cuisine, but certainly something that the Chinese living in South East Asia are very familiar with.


Steamed Pork Belly with minced garlic L$ 36

They have two bars at the restaurant.  One focuses on wine while the other is a whiskey bar, perfect for patrons who want to have a drink and order a few small bites.  Their marinated cockles and steamed pork belly with minced garlic are both perfect accompaniments for a shot or two in case you are not after a full meal.


Marble Goby with preserved veg $ 10 per 100g

The restaurant is new setup with involvement from the management of Famous Kitchen which I had blogged about previously and so some of their signature dishes can also be found here.   The steamed Soon Hock with preserved vegetables is quite a unique dish which is not commonly found else where.  The fish is first steamed and then served with a piquant sauce made with preserved mustard greens and topped with peanuts.   It’s one of those tangy dishes which really gets the salivary glands working.  4.25/5


Salt baked crabs $ 6 per 100g

My favourite dish at Famous Kitchen has always been the salt baked blue swimmer crabs.  It’s salty, savoury and smokey crustacean flavour continues to linger on your fingers long after you have dispatched with the sweet and succulent flesh! Finger lickin’ good! 4.5/5


Crystal chicken $ 25 (half) $ 50 (whole)

The sauce which is served with the steamed chicken is quite unique and makes the dish stand out from the usual steamed chicken that we commonly come across.  It is made from a specially imported bone marrow paste and gives it a flavour that reminded me of luncheon meat!  4/5


Fish Head Curry $ 35 (half) $ 65 (whole)

The fish head curry is very good and worth ordering if you are trying to introduce this very Singaporean dish to visitors.  The curry is very well balanced and they use wild caught ang goli (Goldbanded jobfish) instead of farmed ang goi (crimson snapper) which is usually found in cheaper zi char establishments. 4.25/5


KL Hokkien Mee L$ 36

I reiterate what I said at the beginning of the post that Famous Treasure serves “Nanyang” cuisine.  Which other Chinese restaurant in Singapore would serve KL Hokkien mee?  The KL Hokkien mee is very competent and they managed to get the KL style tai lok meen which makes it pretty authentic.  4/5

Conclusion

Great place to enjoy some local Chinese food in a comfortable and modern setting.  The restaurant has semi private booths which can seat four as well as private rooms for 10 and 20 pax which is perfect for lunch and dinner meetings.

Disclosure
This restaurant is partly owned by our long time makan kaki, fashionfoodie.

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Blue Label Pizza, Ann Siang: Atas Pizzeria from Sister Restaurant of Luke’s Oyster Bar

Taking over the space of jazz bar B28Blue Label Pizza (BLP) exists at a back alley beside The Club Hotel at Ann Siang. There is no signboard to indicate the shop name, but from the outside, you can peer through the wide panes to see that the decor is really classy and almost intimidating for a pizzeria. BLP is opened by the same people behind the very expensive and popular Luke’s Oyster Bar (LOB) just down the street. Given how popular and well-reviewed LOB is, we went to BLP with high expectations… that weren’t met.

For starters, we had the insanely priced state fair fries ($ 25), which consists of handcut Idaho potatoes, black pepper gravy, fried egg, aioli, and shaved truffle. But, as you can see from the photo, that is not the usual shaved truffle. The usual shaved truffle looks similar to pencil shavings, but this is shredded like seaweed shreds. Perhaps the menu can be more accurate.

Tastewise, this is fantastic. The fries must have been double- or even triple-deep fried so that they are super crispy, so crispy that even the wet toppings do not dampen them. But by doing so, BLP has sacrificed the nice softness within the fries. For $ 25 fries, they need to be the best fries ever, but unfortunately, a fortnight ago, we had amazing fries, much better than BLP’s, at a $ 35 buffet. Take note: the buffet is a mere $ 10 more than BLP’s fries.

We also got the chicken wings ($ 14 for 3 whole pcs, $ 28 for 6 pcs). There is a choice between buffalo wings or honey-garlic sriracha wings, both of which come with blue cheese ranch. (Keep the blue cheese dip for the fries! They go very well.) We opted for the latter flavour because we thought it is something different, but in the end it tastes like a lighter cousin of buffalo wings.

We asked the waiter about the number of pieces of chicken for $ 14 and $ 28. He said 6 pieces and 12 respectively. Technically, he wasn’t wrong, but really it’s 3 whole wings and 6. Anyway, the wings are just ok. It’s fried too hard on the skin, and the meat has withdrawn into itself that the chicken becomes too skinny, without much meat. Old Chang Kee or any decent cze char stalls have better wings.

For pizza, the bestseller is Summer in San Sebastian ($ 34). Any foodie worth her/his salt knows that San Sebastian, a tiny coastal town in Spain, has the highest concentration of Michelin-studded restaurants. Perhaps the name of the dish has inspired people to order it, because the taste sure doesn’t.

The toppings for this pizza include chorizo ragu, Hokkaido octopus, espelette chili and aioli by the side. If you have eaten pulpo tapas before, this pizza is like the tapas dumped onto the crust; quite an original idea. The octopus is tender and chewy—an excellent element–but the pizza is so spicy I can’t feel my tongue when I’m with you… but I don’t love it… I don’t love it, oh. I had to stop eating for ten minutes before I could continue eating anything else.

The Travis Supreme ($ 31) has ground chuck, sesame crust, special sauce, cheddar-bacon melt. It’s a moist, saucy pizza with shredded cabbage to provide a nice textural crunch. It tastes almost Asian, like takoyaki. This is a good pizza but…

All four of us didn’t like the crust. Yan Dao even declared, “Worst crust ever.” Not sure if it’s the technique (too much oil?) using stone fire or the dough, but the crust has a similar texture as if it is deep-fried; it’s entirely crispy. The edge of a good pizza should be fluffy inside, but here, it’s like an over-fried youtiao on the verge of becoming a good biscuit.

I admit that I didn’t manage my expectations. I went with a mind that LBP would be one of the better pizzerias in Singapore; I had already set the bars high before I stepped into the restaurant. The wonderful service and the classy ambience cemented my pre-judgement and added to my anticipation.

Although I went with a preconceived, idealised notion, when it comes to the food, there is always a “but.” “It’s nice but…” “The octopus is tasty but…” I’m not sure if I should make excuses for restaurants with “buts.”

Including a Japanese craft beer ($ 15) for me, we paid $ 140 for four persons.


Menu


Blue Label Pizza
28 Ann Siang Road, Basement 1 Singapore 069708
tel: +65 9821 9362
M-F 12pm-2pm, M-Sat 6pm-12am
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Price: 4/10
Decor/ambience: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 5.75/10


Here are some better options:
Alt Pizza, Suntec: One of the Best Pizzas in Singapore (Good Draught Craft Beers too!)
Pizza Express, Scotts Square: Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them
Pizza Fabbrica, Kampong Glam: One of the Best Restaurants This Year
Amo Restaurant, Hong Kong Street: Excellent Pizzas and Sharing Plates, Best for After-Work and Adult Gatherings


Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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Fatburger, Tanjong Katong: Make Burgers Great Again?

Landing this month on our shores is not one but two outlets of Fatburger at Velocity @ Novena Square and Kinex mall (formerly known as OneKM mall). Available in over 200 locations spanning across 25 countries, Fatburger has gained a huge following which includes Hollywood celebrities such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Queen Latifah for its thick and juicy hamburgers.

Fatburger, founded in 1952 with the tagline “the last great hamburger stand”, is best known for its cooked-to-order and custom-made burgers with varying number of beef patties. They source their meat locally and it is never frozen. Using a meat ratio of 80:20 (80% ground chuck and 20% fat), Fatburger does its burgers medium well. However if you would like to have your meat done differently, you can tell them to prepare the way you want it.

Also, if you are a big fan of meat, you could consider going for their Quad (XXXXL) hamburger which consists of 4 beef patties. Conquer that and earn your spot on their Wall of Fame…for eternity.

The veggies here are prepared fresh daily and you can choose either brioche or wholemeal for your buns. The usual suspects of toppings/condiments that you can select include mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, relish and mustard. If you would like to have additional toppings, you can choose from the following at $ 1 each: cheese, egg, beef bacon, chilli, onion rings.

Anyone who is on a gluten-free diet would be happy to know that Fatburger also offers an option of having your buns gluten-free at an additional $ 2.90. There is also a veggie burger ($ 7.50) on the menu to cater to those who can’t take meat. To make it into a set, one can opt to fork out $ 4 more for fries and unlimited soft drink refills.

I tried the skinny burger ($ 7.50), with cheese and egg add-ons (a shout out to fitness enthusiasts – finally a healthy-ish burger) as I was still full from my heavy lunch earlier on. Taking my first bite into the burger, I am pleasantly surprised that the burger is able to hold its form well even without the buns. The burger is ok but it tastes generic. The relish, cheese and egg come in handy as they help to balance the rather dry beef patties.

Sides offered at Fatburger include: fat fries and skinny fries ($ 3.90 each); sweet potato fries, homemade onion rings and chilli cheese fries ($ 5.90 each). Of all the sides, I think the onion rings would be the one that you should save your calories for. It’s made-to-order with individual onion slices dipped into Fatburger’s special batter sauce and fried to perfection. It is sweet, juicy and moreish.

Another staple in all-America hamburger place would be milkshakes. Fatburger’s menu features hand-scooped real ice cream milkshakes with the following flavours: oreo cookies, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry ($ 5.90 each). We are told that they don’t dilute the taste of the milkshakes by adding milk or any fillers. So it’s just blended ice cream. But I thought it defeats the purpose of calling it a “milkshake”. I suppose ice cream contains milk so it’s not wrong in that sense… After having the milkshakes, it’s so sweet that we feel we should measure our blood sugar level immediately. Texture wise, it’s creamy and dense but only for those who want a sugar rush.

For those who can’t take beef, fret not. There are also chicken burgers available, although one can only choose between crispy chicken ($ 7.50) or grilled chicken ($ 7.50). There are also lesser toppings/condiments (lettuce, tomato and mayo) as compared to the beef hamburger for the same price. We had the grilled chicken burger which has a nice char and seasoning (seems like Cajun?) but perhaps the chicken is left a little too long on the grill and it is rather dry. The chicken patty could also have been thicker as I feel the sheer size of the bun overwhelms the meat.

I like the idea that I can customise my burger here and food is prepared to order so I will always get my food hot. Hence one also has to be patient while waiting for your order to be ready as it will take some time. On the whole, the food here is satisfactory, although there are a few hits and misses.


Fatburger
Velocity @ Novena Square, 238 Thomson Road, #01-08/09, Singapore 307863
Tel: +65 6253 2758
M-Sun 7.30am–10pm
Kinex Mall, 11 Tanjong Katong Road, #01-70/71/72 Singapore 437157
Tel: +65 6245 5563
M-Sun 10am–10pm
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Food: 5.5/10
Decor/ambience: 6/10
Price/value: 6/10


You may be interested in…
25 Degrees Burger, Hotel G, Middle Road: Hollywood A-Listers’ Favorite Burger Joint from Los Angeles Now in Singapore!
The Bird Southern Table & Bar, Marina Bay Sands: Not to Be Confused with HK’s Yardbird, This One Sells Atas Fried Chicken
Potato Head Folk, Keong Saik Road: Famed Balinese Beach Club Serves Fantastic Burgers in Singapore
Burger Joint New York, Amoy Street: Always Crowded, So Cool It Is Kitsch


Written by Vanessa Khong. Vanessa is someone who enjoys checking out the local food scene. She believes the way to her heart is through her stomach.

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Wei Yi Laksa and Prawn Noodle – Could This be THE ONLY Laksa for You?

Can you imagine singing Wang Leehom’s classic 唯一 (wei yi) to laksa? Well, believe it or not, Wei Yi Laksa and Prawn Noodle shares the same name as the song! I journeyed to Tanglin Halt Market to find out if this famous laksa stall could live up to Wang Leehom’s song and indeed be THE ONLY laksa for me.

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I popped by in the morning to beat the lunch crowd but, to my horror, there was already a short queue. And it was only 1030am! Many tables at the hawker centre were occupied by elderly patrons with Wei Yi’s distinctive red and white bowls. This built up my expectations and anticipation for their laksa!

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Wei Yi Laksa and Prawn Noodle has been opened for thirty years and has  accomplished a great deal. They were listed in CEO’s Hawker Guide, and also participated in overseas culinary exchanges in Shenzhen and Tokyo. Perhaps that explains why their menu has Japanese translations! Unlike the typical laksa stall that sends out bowls with the standard fish cake, bean sprouts, and cockles, Wei Yi offers some level of customisation. Here, you can choose from 6 sets, with each set being a different combination of chicken, fried bean curd, cockles and prawns. Wei Yi serves prawn noodles with fish cake too.

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My mantra in life has always been go big or go home, so of course I ordered the bao ga liao laksa with all the available ingredients ($ 5). I must admit that the laksa looked extremely enticing with its beautiful bright colours and generous serving of ingredients. I dug in with high hopes. But sadly, it failed to match up to expectations. The first thing that struck me was the lack of coconut milk in the gravy. How could such a rich-looking laksa be missing coconut milk? And so I took a second spoonful, third, fourth and fifth — you get the idea. Alas, I could not detect even a hint of coconut milk in the thin gravy. The dollop of sambal chili on the side was also lacklustre, lacking in both fragrance and potent spiciness to bolster the mediocre gravy.

The ingredients in the laksa did a lot better though. The chicken slices were very meaty while the tau pok was nice and fat, soaking up the gravy well. The deshelled prawns were slightly larger than usual, but the meat was rather flaky. Cockles are mandatory in laksa, to me at least, but I found the sizeable cockles too fishy for me. For $ 5, the amount and variety of ingredients were impressive. The portion was quite generous — I struggled to finish it on my own.

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wei yi collage 1
This is personal preference lah but I preferred the All Prawns Prawn Noodle Soup ($ 3) of the two. The prawn stock was savoury, rich, and intense, making it infinitely more flavourful than the laksa. I loved how Wei Yi threw huge, thick chunks of lard into the prawn soup, adding a fragrant greasiness that elevated the taste of the prawn noodles. If you remove the pork lard, the dish will taste almost exactly like primary school tuckshop food— very nostalgic! We chose the standard yellow noodles so the jian flavour seeped into the soup, making it pleasantly sweeter. But understandably, not everyone is a fan of the jian in yellow noodles. Compared to those in the laksa, the prawns were a lot bigger, fresher, firmer, and crunchier. The number of prawns you can fish out from this deceptively small bowl of noodles was quite astounding. Definitely great value for money!

In more ways than one, I was quite disappointed with Wei Yi’s famous laksa. I am someone who needs rich coconut milk in laksa and Wei Yi did not deliver in that aspect. If this crucial element could be nailed, this could very well be a darn good bowl of laksa in the West — bearing in mind its fresh ingredients, generous portions, and great value for money.

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Address: 48A Tanglin Halt Road, Tanglin Halt Market, #01-20, Singapore 148813

Opening Hours: 530am to 2pm daily. Closed on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.

Let’s build a food community that helps to update the food news in Singapore! Simply comment below if there’s any changes or additional info to Wei Yi Laksa and Prawn Noodle. We will verify and update from our side. Thanks in advance!

For more yummy laksa, check out the nyonya laksa from Madam Liew’s Recipe!

Yun Xin Chong

After countless hawker food adventures, Yun Xin still finds the familiarity and comfort of home cooked food the best.

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Food Artisans in Singapore Who Make Us Nuts

In collaboration with Kenwood, we interviewed food artisans in Singapore. Food artisans are craftworkers who make food by hand using premium and healthy ingredients. In a sense, most homemakers who cook for their friends and families are food artisans; your grandmother who cooks or your brother who bakes.

The common thread between the food artisans we interviewed is that they want to eat something but they couldn’t find a good version locally and so they decided to step up and fill in the gap. They also work very hard and went through many trials before they reach where they are now.


Bake and Bake
8 Telok Blangah Crescent #01-159 Singapore 090008
tel: +65 9670 8007
9am-9pm, closed on Sat, PH, and eve of PH.
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Anson Goh, the owner of Bake and Bake, was a pastry cook for four years and then a customer service officer for twelve years. All the while, he has been baking for his friends and colleagues. Finally, in 2017, he quit his job and concentrates on baking full time. His shop focuses on biscotti, an Italian almond biscuit. He uses less sugar, no butter, and no oil in them. His bestsellers are chocolate biscotti, almond biscotti, and pistachio biscotti.

Why is your shop called “Bake and Bake”?

It’s called “Bake and Bake” because you have to bake biscotti twice. For the recipe, I experimented and finally came up the biscotti on ourselves. We come up with original flavours such as mango-coconut-charcoal biscotti, and wolfberry-red date biscotti, a unique East-meets-West biscotti.

We use two days to make the biscotti. We bake the dough until it’s firm but not fully baked. We wait for it to cool down and then put it in the fridge overnight. Then we bake again. It’s very labour-intensive.

How did your passion in biscotti come about?

When I traveled to other countries, I didn’t know what it was. Then I realized it was very good to munch. In the end, I fell in love with biscotti. When I go to other countries, I always try it.

What are some of the issues you face or have faced?

In the beginning, I couldn’t afford a suitable machine to cut the dough; it couldn’t cut nicely so I had to hand-slice it. Every slice must be of a consistent size and a customized machine ain’t cheap. I had to slice on frozen dough until my hand hurt. But now, we finally save up to buy a machine and now we can take on bigger orders.

It’s always a financial issue. Many months, I didn’t have a salary and it was a struggle last year. I worried a lot about the spending. Although things are picking up, I still have to work harder. Things can be better.

I didn’t know anything about business. Every day I need to learn how to manage the business on the job. I have to learn how to foresee problems, how to plan ahead. I’m probably not as good as those business-minded people, but I’ll do my best.

Another issue is to get the word out, to get people to know us. People don’t have good impressions of biscotti because most people come in contact with it from supermarkets. So it’s hard to sell to people who already have a fixed idea. But once people try ours, we have repeat customers. We have a 91 year-old granny who said, “假牙慢慢吃lor.” I’m doing more events to promote it, but it’s very tiring to travel here and there. Sometimes, the events are quiet and the products don’t sell. Or when it rains, we have to keep our stuff. But when customers give us good feedback, it gives me great satisfaction.

It’s very tiring, but when you work for your passion, it’s fulfilling.

What is your eventual goal?

My dream is to open a bakery-cum-café one day. Because biscotti pairs well with coffee.


Haru Plate
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Chen Shiqin and Irvin Tan are a husband-and-wife team behind Haru Plate, making food for kids from 18 months to six years old. Haru Plate makes sauces, stocks, and jams with whole, fresh, natural food and with no salt, no sugar, and no preservatives. Their products can be used to complement other food such as pasta, pizza, and bread.

Can you tell us about your background?

Irvin: I’m a computer engineer by training but when I graduated, I started as a commercial photographer and gradually found a passion for arts/documentary photography.

Shiqin: He was doing photography for a F&B where I was doing PR. That’s how we got to know each other. And we set up a freelancers’ studio. We’re still doing it… but after we have kids, the creative side of things is harder to sustain because deadlines are crazy. We wanted to do something that allows us to spend more time with our kids. Three, four months ago, we started Haru Plates full-time.

What is the meaning of “Haru”?

I: There is the official meaning. “Haru” means spring in Japanese, conveying a new beginning metaphorically for kids. The real backstory…

S: It’s to do with Ollie [their first child] and his schooling experience. He didn’t like school, always crying it’s not fun, it’s not fun. And then one day, something very simple changed his perspective towards school and it has to do with the word “Haru.” Kids are very innocent. To change their perspective, it’s very simple. Just find one thing.

I: He has a classmate named Haruka. One day he came back and said, “Papa, school was fun today.” What happened? “I have a new friend.” Oh, is she cute? “Yeah.” This is what we wanted for our food, to have something to change his perspective.

S: We want to make eating fun to get kids to eat better. But we try not to tell the story too much. Later, her parents get wind of it and think we are creepy.

How do you come up with the recipes?

S: I can’t cook for nuts. The recipes come from him. I can give feedback. He created the sauces so that I can cook for the kids. Once, he was on a work trip and I cooked salmon for the two children. Ollie looked at the fish, and said, “How come you only cook one thing? Daddy cook a lot of things one.” Then he saw an oregano flake and said, “Mommy mommy, you cook two things.” He had to comfort me that I wasn’t completely useless.

I: We were experimenting cooking food for our children at home. There is the organic market, which 90% of people cannot afford it. There is the mass market, which is loaded with chemicals you don’t want children to have. And parents, like us, do want better food for their kids. That’s where we come in.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

I: We don’t use salt and sugar so it’s limiting. Our jams, we don’t use sugar, and that’s hard.

S: It’s not only in flavours, but in textures. Jams use emulsifiers to have jelly-like texture, but we don’t use emulsifiers, so we have to think about ways of how to create that texture. Also, the taste. When we adults taste it, we think it’s tasty, but when our children eat it, they fail it. You cannot know what kids will like.

I: Kids don’t care about your feelings.

S: they are quite brutal! They don’t like means they don’t like. The entire food experience for kids isn’t about the food; it’s also about colours. They like bright colours, purple, red. But they associate green with vegetables and dark red with chilli, so they avoid it.

L: That’s why we make our “sambal” [there is no chilli in it]. Once we shift kids’ perceptions, they are willing to try new things.

S: That’s how we name our products too. Our “pumpkin sauce” is named “My First Curry” [no chilli, only cumin] so when kids eat it, they think hey curry is not scary and when they are of a suitable age, they will transition to real curries.

I: When we develop our products, we are also thinking as parents educating kids on eating. Another challenge we faced… When we first started, we were targeting pre-schools where our kids spend most of the time. We spoke to school after school. Some of them were, oh good idea but we don’t want to pay for it. To be fair, school’s business is education ostensibly; it’s not food.

S: In Singapore, pre-schools are bogged down by rental. When it comes to food, they don’t think about it as nutrition; they think of it as operational costs.

I: We wanted to shift Haru in schools and at home. But schools are reluctant. Until schools see parents want it and are asking for it, there is nothing we can do. We were really trying out best for the last 3 to 4 months but things weren’t moving forward.

S: Our ultimate aim is to get kids to eat better. They are eating in schools and at home. It’s important to have continuity in schools and at homes so that children can develop lifelong healthy habits.


Holy Moley Dips
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Teo Liwen, a former flight attendant, focuses on healthy, vegan, dairy-free hummus, freshly made with all natural ingredients with no preservatives. The original hummus is lighter than others I have tried. But my favorite flavours from Holy Moly Dips are Marmite & Caramelised Onions and Harissa & Habanero.They also have a dessert hummus dip, made from 100% pure Valrhona chocolate with only 2g of sugar, sweetened by dates.

Why is your store called Holy Moley Dip?

“Holy Moley” is my nickname in school because of my mole! [She points to the mole below her lips.] I wanted a catchy and easy-to-remember name.

Why did start a hummus online shop?

Before everything started, I was flying for four years. I was craving for hummus but I couldn’t find a good one in Singapore. That’s how I develop my interest in hummus.

What is the difference between your hummus and others’?

A lot of people tend to compare my hummus with the ones in supermarket. The price point is a bit different but the ingredients are super different. My hummus uses good quality ingredients and no preservatives. I don’t use canned chickpeas; I use dried ones. Instead of citric acid, I use fresh lemon juice. I use extra virgin olive oil whereas others use canola or other oils.

I also tweak it to local tastebuds. I did many test tastes. We prefer not so smooth and creamy if not we feel very jerlat. Mine has more texture.

Durian and truffles are my most requested. I cannot bring myself to make durian. I love durian by itself, but I’m not sure if it’s good with hummus. Maybe one day.

What are some difficulties you face?

 Starting from scratch, learning everything myself. I am not food trained. don’t have food background. How long should I soak the chick peas?  How long should I boil it and let it simmer? It took me one year to learn how to make hummus. Should I go as a sole proprietor? Food is sensitive, I have to read up on it. I considered food consultants to help me but it’s so expensive. I was caught in the middle because I left the job. I want to go as fast as possible but a lot of things have been stopping me. Since I have my mind set on doing it, I should do it on my first and not rely on food consultants. There are days when I feel discouraged but these setbacks have overall made me a positive person.

Another challenge: When I first launched, not a lot of people know hummus. I got a lot of private messaging to ask about the products. Marketing is very important. I get to meet people and they can try it.

What are your plans for the future?

I definitely want to scale. I left my comfortable job to do this; I didn’t want to make it small. The end goal is every household has a holy moley dip. But I definitely want to maintain no preservatives.


Provisions 杂货店
492 Macpherson Road, Singapore 368199
tel: +65 6909 0824
9am-4pm, closed Sun
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Paul Ng (left) and Nicholas Tan (right) were secondary school classmates who set up Provisions 杂货店 that sells snacks and condiments. Their bestsellers are gula jawa almond brittle and curry cashews, and while they are very delicious, my favorite product is the pickled young ginger. The products are hand-made by them in small batches without any preservatives. One of the things that I really like about them is that they are socially conscious that they use paper packaging, instead of plastic. It’s just one of the little thoughtful things that make them stand out.

How did you come to set up Provisions?

Nicholas: We always have an interest in food and snacks and flavours that are familiar to us. We were both studying in UK at similar time and we missed Singapore food. So we cooked things we liked to eat.

When we came back to Singapore, a friend was getting married and on a whim she asked us to make something for wedding favors. We created the first two flavours, which were hits at the wedding. People were asking us where they could get it. That’s how we started and we finally launched our brand in the middle of last year.

As we R&D and develop more, it’s not just snacks we want to do, that’s why we have pickles and chillis and things like that.

Most of the startups focus on one product. But you have 11 or 12. Do you think you’re taking on too much?

Paul: The reason why we’re called za huo dian is because we want to do things that we like to eat. We have a bit of everything but we will make sure that they are unique. Even though we did a variety of things, we don’t copy others. We don’t do things differently for the sake of it; we do it because we like it. We incorporate new flavours but these flavours are always regional.

N: One of our strengths is ideations, drawing inspirations from familiar things. So for example, our masala lavosh cracker… I really like to eat to muruku, so we reinterpreted and reinvented it. If it comes to our minds, we try it out, explore, and if it works, we launch it. Another food, I have always been going to Hong Kong to get pickled ginger for century eggs, but the lady stopped making it. And I bugged her very often until she gave me the recipe. We tinkered with the recipe; and we want to bring pickled ginger back.

P: We don’t make for the sake of it. It’s usually something that hard to find and we want to eat it, so we make it. We don’t sell things we don’t like to eat. If we put it out, and we feel that it can be changed, we will change it.

Starting a business is always difficult. But it may be more difficult doing it with a friend. How do you manage?

P: Between Nicholas and I, there are many things that make the partnership work. We knew each other since we were 15, we know each other for 19 years. We are both literature grads, and we think about things similarly. At the end of the day, we have good hearts. If there are any small issues, they are just superficial; we have to get to terms.

How do you come up the recipes?

P: Over the past the years, we have different experiences with food, whether it’s cooking or eating at restaurants. We have a base recipe and then we tinker.

N: Going on holidays is always structured around food. Also I subscribe to food magazines.  It’s hard to pin down exactly where we get our recipes from. But our current snacks.. our recipes evolve and improve. It’s a constant evolution. After we have many of trials, we get a sense of what makes it right. We are not set on the recipes, there is always potential to evolve.

Since you have so many products, which one is your favourite?  

P: It’s hard to say. We have 2 and then we have 3, and suddenly we have 11 or 12.

N: They are all our babies. But kafifr lime coconut cashews… How this come about is… I’m thinking of the spices in our rendang. But I wanted to create something fragrant and not spicy. It’s interesting because when people try it, they thought of green curry but my Malay ex-colleagues got rendang immediately.

What are some difficulties you face?

P: Exposure. Exposure is very different to get.  Recently we were at a bazaar and we did very well. It gives us some form of confidence because we are sure that our products are right and there is a market for them. It’s just about getting the word out.

N: Having a store in a central location will help… but certain structural costs are very high. When we started out to expand our range while keeping the business on-going… like marketing and outreach while we R&D because it’s just the two of us. We had to learn things along the way because doing business is new to us.

What do you envision the future of your shop?

P: We want to maintain a boutique-ness but be an established brand in the F&B industry. We want to set up shop for people to pick up gifts for their friends and family here and overseas.

N: It’s a lot more that Singapore as a region can offer and it’s a pity our country isn’t doing it. Eventually, we do want to set up shop in a central area.


This article is presented by Kenwood who supports local food artisans, passionate homemakers, and anyone who cooks with a heart. For Kenwood, it’s about eating fresh food. For more inspiring stories about food artisans and wholesome recipes, please visit Kenwood.

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Cookery Magic – Ruqxana Puts Meaning into Cooking

The Singapore Tourism Board has launched the next phase for its “Passion Made Possible” global campaign. The campaign celebrates Singapore’s culture, food and attractions, and shines the spotlight on home-grown talents, and how they are making their passions possible on a global stage.

When we speak of Singapore, one of the first things that comes to mind is food. From Hainanese Chicken Rice and Chilli Crab, to Kaya Toast and Ice Kachang, Singapore has it all. The local food scene excites and dazzles not just tourists, but everyday Singaporeans as well.

Food connects people, and is an avenue for us to appreciate the culture that it is derived from. If you truly love food, there are plenty of opportunities in Singapore that will allow you to fuel your passion.

Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic

RUQXANA’S JOURNEY

Seeing our local dishes renewed my fervour for cooking. A few weeks ago, I met Ruqxana, the owner of Cookery Magic. For the past 17 years, she has been teaching cooking classes in her home in Siglap, sharing authentic Singapore flavours with many international guests.

Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic

Ruqxana has always enjoyed cooking, ever since she was a little girl. Even as a five-year-old, she would tear recipes off Nestlé tin cans and keep them in a scrap book. At the age of seven, she started experimenting in the kitchen, and by the time she was in her teens, she was cooking and hosting her friends in her home.

The 56-year-old said, “Cooking is a creative process. I love that influences from so many cultures and regions can come together.”

I would assume that she is trained as a chef. But to my surprise, she was a mechanical engineer for over 15 years, before she left her job to pursue, and share, her passion in cooking.

Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic
Cookery Magic

OPENING COOKERY MAGIC

To date, Cookery Magic consistently ranks amongst the top 5 on TripAdvisor’s list of Classes & Workshops in Singapore.

Ruqxana has an extensive repertoire of recipes comprising dishes from various ethnic groups (eg: Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and more).

“Cooking has allowed me to express myself in so many ways, and to experience so many cultures, through the hundreds of amazing people I have met in my classes,” Ruqxana shared.

We took part in one of her classes and she taught us how to make Singapore Char Kway Teow, Chilli Prawns, and Ondeh Ondeh.

FINDING INSPIRATION IN SINGAPORE: RUQXANA RECOMMENDS

Every morning before class, Ruqxana would head to Geylang Serai Market to get the freshest ingredients. She knows exactly where to get her fresh seafood, meat, and even the flat noodles used for Char Kway Teow. “We cook with whatever local and fresh ingredients we have, and where better than going to the wet market here?” Ruqxana said with a smile.

The exposure to various flavour profiles and cooking techniques in Singapore has inspired and sustained Ruqxana’s love for cooking. “Living in a multi-racial society is the greatest gift Singapore has given me. Every ethnic group is different, so you learn different things from different people. There are beautiful flavours that immigrants brought to Singapore 100 to 200 years ago, and over the years we’ve tweaked them and made them our own,” Ruqxana shared.

Cookery Magic

I asked Ruqxana if there was a local chef whom she finds inspiration from. Without hesitation, she replied, “Chef Mohammed Shahrom! I think his food is very exciting. It’s just so creative the way he comes up with things.”

As for her favourite spot for local food, East Coast Lagoon Food Village is number one on her list. “I love the Mee Goreng!” Exclaimed Ruqxana with bright eyes.

RUQXANA’S PASSION MADE POSSIBLE

It wasn’t my first time attending a cooking class in Singapore, but this was indeed a unique and very fun experience.

Cookery Magic

“What I provide is a different dimension. People come to Singapore to eat, so instead of just trying our food, why not learn how to cook it? When you go home, you can constantly recreate the flavours that you had and it reminds you of your time in Singapore. It’s a nice way of bringing back a unique souvenir.”

For many of us, when we’re taking a leap of faith to pursue a passion, it’s easy to be dissuaded by fear. There were uncertainties for Ruqxana in the beginning too. But she persevered and she has no regrets.

These wise words from Ruqxana will stay with me, “You’ve got to love what you’re doing. You cannot do something you don’t love. Because once you’re able to do what you love, then I think it is successful already. And if something goes wrong, don’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ Try again because there might be something else that might help you along the way.”

TELL US YOUR STORY

Calling all Foodies! Do you know of anyone who has an interesting story to tell around food? An inspiring story about passionate foodies to share?

Share with me a local eatery, chef, or restaurant owner with an inspiring story like Ruqxana’s and how it exemplifies the Passion Made Possible spirit in Singapore. I will be checking out your recommendation personally! The most inspiring submission will be featured, and the contributor will be awarded a pair of tickets (worth $ 280) to Ruqxana’s amazing cooking class, where you’ll learn to cook 3 dishes in Ruqxana’s personal signature style.

Write to me: [email protected]

Maureen

Born into a family of enthusiastic foodies, Maureen has always loved all things culinary, especially the local cuisine here in Singapore. With a life-long fascination with the rapidly evolving food scene in Singapore, she started this website in 2007 to explore and celebrate all types of local Singapore dishes and to share her love of travel and food with the world. With 4 years of experience as a journalist and producer, she has a wealth of experience in food writing, photography and styling.

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Miss Tam Chiak

Dingtele: Shanghai Sheng Jian Bao and other dim sum!


Crab meat Xiao Long Bao $ 9.20 for 4  (normal XLB $ 5.40 for 5)

I looooove dumplings.

Be they char siew bao, bak pao, har gao or siew mai,
be they steamed, boiled, or pan fry,
they could be in a soup or a basket
with chilli or just plain naked.
when I see them, I surely will try!

But as many parents will never admit openly, I do favour some dumplings a little more than others. (I love both my kids the same.  I am just saying)


Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包 ($ 5.40 for 4)

My current favourite is the sheng jian bao which I first got acquainted with with many years ago at Shanghai Renjia.  It was love at first bite.  Here is a dumpling where you can have the best of all worlds!  The bottom is crispy, the top is soft and pillowy and it bursts when you bite into it!  More recently, their son, Stephen started to help out at the eatery and he introduced another, hippier, style of sheng jian bao which is currently very popular in Shanghai.  This style of sheng jian bao is made famous by Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao and is fried with the pleats on the bottom.  Again, I immediately fell in love with them but I thought that they were only available at Shanghai Renjia.

Then, I came across Dingtele along Upper Serangoon Road.  I must say that I wasn’t particularly impressed with I first visited them earlier this year.  More recently, I came across them again at their new stall at the newly revamped Rasapura Masters food court at Marina Bay Sands.  Up till then I had only seen shen jian bao being fried in small pans at Shanghai Renjia.  Over at Rasapura, they were being fried in a huge pan, just like how it’s done in Shanghai!  I just had to try them. This time round, I really enjoyed them.

The boss, Lewis Liu, happened to be cooking that day and I managed to strike up a conversation with him.  I discovered that he came from a family who ran a Shanghainese dim sum restaurant called Xin Hong Shanghai Xiao Chi (鑫鸿上海小吃) in 虹口区 from 1997 to 2016.  He had spent a few years learning how to make dim sum before he decided to venture out to Singapore to open a restaurant.  He was supposed to take over the restaurant but decided to come to Singapore instead.  His father retired in 2016 and shut down the restaurant in Shanghai.  But his legacy continues here in Singapore!

There are a couple of dumplings which are very good at Dingtele.  I Their shen jian bao were very good, though I would have liked the skin to be just a tad sweeter.  Lewis tells me that they use fresh Indonesian pork and it’s flavourful and soupy without any off-putting porky stench.  You have to be careful when eating the bao because they literally burst when you bite into them.  I had soup all over my hands and my pants! 4.25/5

Their guo tie were surprisingly good! They have that kind of rustic look about them that makes them look rather authentic.  At first I was a little put off by the base being slightly charred, but I when I bit into them I realized that this must be the right way to make them.  It had a level of crispiness that I have never come across in a guo tie before. The skin and meat filling is a little different from the shen jian bao.  It isn’t as thick at the base and the meat filling is a little sweeter.  I won’t hesitate to order a plate.  4.5/5

I was told that in Shanghai, the skin of the xiao long bao is thicker than what we are used to here.  For the Shanghainese, breakfast could be a basket of xiao long bao and a cup of soya bean drink, so the skin is supposed to fill you up.  They had initially made their xiao long bao with thicker skin but realized later on that Singaporeans like the skin thinner because we want to order other items!  The normal xiao long bao is quite good, but the hairy crab version was better!  4.25/5


Wanton with chilli and black vinegar $ 7.2

The skin on their wonton is, again, a little thicker than what we are used to but I still found them delicious!  The filling has meat and sichuan chye which gave it a different flavour from the other dumplings.  Worth a try if you have the stomach.  4/5


Glutinous rice dumpling with dried shrimp $ 4 for 3

The good thing about these tasting sessions is that I get to try new items which I wouldn’t have otherwise ordered!  One such item was the glutinous rice dumpling.  I have tried these once before at Ding Tai Fung  and have never ordered them again.  The ones at Dingtele are a little sweeter and the dried shrimps flavour is quite robust.  They are quite big and filling but quite nice. Can try.  4/5


Noodles with soy and scallion oil $ 5.30

Their cong you mian is quite good, though I thought the addition of the dried shrimps only served to detract from the flavour of the scallion oil.  I would request not to have the dried shrimps next time so I can have the chewy noodles with just with the scallion oil and soy sauce. 4/5


Choice of 4 appetizers $ 9.

Of the appetizers which we tried, I was only really happy with the sweet and sour pork ribs which had a distinct flavour that is not commonly found here.  But even then the meat was a tad dry.  Their wheat gluten aren’t really worth ordering again.  Drunken chicken marinade was good, but I would have liked thigh meat instead of wings. For $ 9, you can order any four of their appetizers, or order them ala carte.  3.5/5


Egg pancakes $ 4

I also wasn’t impressed with their egg pancakes and wouldn’t recommend them.  They just weren’t memorable.  Better off ordering egg prata.   3.5/5


Pork Chop $ 4.7

Their pork chops are also not worth ordering.  It was dry and not well marinated.  A far cry from the ones at Ding Tai Fung. 3/5

Conclusion

The dumplings here are very good.  They are better now then when I first tasted them earlier in the year. Perhaps the restaurant had some time to adjust the flavors to suit our local palate. However, the place still maintains an air of authenticity about it.  It is also good to know that the young owner is very passionate about continuing his father’s legacy of making good Shanghainese dim sum!

Disclosure
This was a media tasting.  That means the food was provided with no obligations to write a review.  We do not publish any paid reviews of restaurants and eateries in this blog.

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Dingtele: Shanghai Sheng Jian Bao and other dim sum!


Crab meat Xiao Long Bao $ 9.20 for 4  (normal XLB $ 5.40 for 5)

I looooove dumplings.

Be they char siew bao, bak pao, har gao or siew mai,
be they steamed, boiled, or pan fry,
they could be in a soup or a basket
with chilli or just plain naked.
when I see them, I surely will try!

But as many parents will never admit openly, I do favour some dumplings a little more than others. (I love both my kids the same.  I am just saying)


Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包 ($ 5.40 for 4)

My current favourite is the sheng jian bao which I first got acquainted with with many years ago at Shanghai Renjia.  It was love at first bite.  Here is a dumpling where you can have the best of all worlds!  The bottom is crispy, the top is soft and pillowy and it bursts when you bite into it!  More recently, their son, Stephen started to help out at the eatery and he introduced another, hippier, style of sheng jian bao which is currently very popular in Shanghai.  This style of sheng jian bao is made famous by Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao and is fried with the pleats on the bottom.  Again, I immediately fell in love with them but I thought that they were only available at Shanghai Renjia.

Then, I came across Dingtele along Upper Serangoon Road.  I must say that I wasn’t particularly impressed with I first visited them earlier this year.  More recently, I came across them again at their new stall at the newly revamped Rasapura Masters food court at Marina Bay Sands.  Up till then I had only seen shen jian bao being fried in small pans at Shanghai Renjia.  Over at Rasapura, they were being fried in a huge pan, just like how it’s done in Shanghai!  I just had to try them. This time round, I really enjoyed them.

The boss, Lewis Liu, happened to be cooking that day and I managed to strike up a conversation with him.  I discovered that he came from a family who ran a Shanghainese dim sum restaurant called Xin Hong Shanghai Xiao Chi (鑫鸿上海小吃) in 虹口区 from 1997 to 2016.  He had spent a few years learning how to make dim sum before he decided to venture out to Singapore to open a restaurant.  He was supposed to take over the restaurant but decided to come to Singapore instead.  His father retired in 2016 and shut down the restaurant in Shanghai.  But his legacy continues here in Singapore!

There are a couple of dumplings which are very good at Dingtele.  I Their shen jian bao were very good, though I would have liked the skin to be just a tad sweeter.  Lewis tells me that they use fresh Indonesian pork and it’s flavourful and soupy without any off-putting porky stench.  You have to be careful when eating the bao because they literally burst when you bite into them.  I had soup all over my hands and my pants! 4.25/5

Their guo tie were surprisingly good! They have that kind of rustic look about them that makes them look rather authentic.  At first I was a little put off by the base being slightly charred, but I when I bit into them I realized that this must be the right way to make them.  It had a level of crispiness that I have never come across in a guo tie before. The skin and meat filling is a little different from the shen jian bao.  It isn’t as thick at the base and the meat filling is a little sweeter.  I won’t hesitate to order a plate.  4.5/5

I was told that in Shanghai, the skin of the xiao long bao is thicker than what we are used to here.  For the Shanghainese, breakfast could be a basket of xiao long bao and a cup of soya bean drink, so the skin is supposed to fill you up.  They had initially made their xiao long bao with thicker skin but realized later on that Singaporeans like the skin thinner because we want to order other items!  The normal xiao long bao is quite good, but the hairy crab version was better!  4.25/5


Wanton with chilli and black vinegar $ 7.2

The skin on their wonton is, again, a little thicker than what we are used to but I still found them delicious!  The filling has meat and sichuan chye which gave it a different flavour from the other dumplings.  Worth a try if you have the stomach.  4/5


Glutinous rice dumpling with dried shrimp $ 4 for 3

The good thing about these tasting sessions is that I get to try new items which I wouldn’t have otherwise ordered!  One such item was the glutinous rice dumpling.  I have tried these once before at Ding Tai Fung  and have never ordered them again.  The ones at Dingtele are a little sweeter and the dried shrimps flavour is quite robust.  They are quite big and filling but quite nice. Can try.  4/5


Noodles with soy and scallion oil $ 5.30

Their cong you mian is quite good, though I thought the addition of the dried shrimps only served to detract from the flavour of the scallion oil.  I would request not to have the dried shrimps next time so I can have the chewy noodles with just with the scallion oil and soy sauce. 4/5


Choice of 4 appetizers $ 9.

Of the appetizers which we tried, I was only really happy with the sweet and sour pork ribs which had a distinct flavour that is not commonly found here.  But even then the meat was a tad dry.  Their wheat gluten aren’t really worth ordering again.  Drunken chicken marinade was good, but I would have liked thigh meat instead of wings. For $ 9, you can order any four of their appetizers, or order them ala carte.  3.5/5


Egg pancakes $ 4

I also wasn’t impressed with their egg pancakes and wouldn’t recommend them.  They just weren’t memorable.  Better off ordering egg prata.   3.5/5


Pork Chop $ 4.7

Their pork chops are also not worth ordering.  It was dry and not well marinated.  A far cry from the ones at Ding Tai Fung. 3/5

Conclusion

The dumplings here are very good.  They are better now then when I first tasted them earlier in the year. Perhaps the restaurant had some time to adjust the flavors to suit our local palate. However, the place still maintains an air of authenticity about it.  It is also good to know that the young owner is very passionate about continuing his father’s legacy of making good Shanghainese dim sum!

Disclosure
This was a media tasting.  That means the food was provided with no obligations to write a review.  We do not publish any paid reviews of restaurants and eateries in this blog.

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Leslie’s Traditional Hainanese Kaya Recipe: Grandpa and Grandma would be proud!

Leslie’s Traditional Hainanese Kaya Recipe: Grandpa and Grandma would be proud!

Traditional Hainanese Kaya Recipe
Silky smooth, flowy kaya

I am very excited to share with you my traditional Hainanese kaya recipe!  This is something which I have been researching for the past four months and I finally manged to re-create a kaya which I have heard about from folks from the pioneer generation!

So, what makes this kaya different from all the other kaya recipes available on the internet?  Well, for one, it is a Hainanese style kaya which has caramel added to it. So it is brown, not green like the Nonya style kaya. The texture is smooth and silky rather than pastey or lumpy, and the predominant flavour is that of coconut and caramel instead of eggs and pandan.

Traditional Recipe, New Method

I have also worked out a new technique of cooking the kaya without having to spend long hours of continuous stirring which the older folks insist is the only way to make good kaya.  I found that once the kaya has been cooked to the right consistency, you can simply pour it into a jar and place it in a rice cooker to complete the cooking process!  The kaya will continue to “mature” as the sugars slowly caramelize over time and the texture will not be affected. This technique means that you can control the amount of caramelization without any effort at all with no compromise to the flavour or texture of the final product!

Traditional Hainanese Kaya Epiphany

I started this journey after I experienced my kaya epiphany at Rail Coffee in Kluang.  There, I came across a kaya which was very different from the type we get here in Singapore. It was dark brown and much thinner than the kaya we have here.  I was fortunate enough to speak to Mr Lim Heng Hoo, 80, whose father had started the cafe in 1938 after arriving from Hainan island.

It was then, that I started to understand what a traditional Hainanese kaya is supposed to be like.  Kaya, as Mr Lim tells me, is not supposed to be lumpy.  Lumpy kaya is overcooked.  Kaya should be smooth and silky. It should be such that it oozes out of your toast when you eat it.  Kaya is not supposed to be eggy.  Eggy kaya is kaya that hasn’t been cooked long enough.  Kaya is also called coconut jam and so the predominant flavour should be that of coconut.


Good kaya should ooze out of your toast!

In the old days, the whole family was involved in cooking kaya!  All the cousins would take turns in stirring the pot and get reprimanded if they don’t do it properly!  The first stage in kaya making is to cook the eggs and sugar first until it thickens slightly.  Then, the coconut milk is added and finally,  just before it is done, caramel is added.  The whole process requires a low and slow fire and hours of cooking to turn eggs, coconut and sugar into a smooth and silky, yet deep and bold kaya!

That meeting completely shattered my kaya paradigm.  I have eaten lumpy, yellow green kaya at many places and it never occurred to me that kaya wasn’t meant to be like that.  There is a nonya version which is green in colour, but even then it shouldn’t be eggy and lumpy. Eggy and lumpy kaya is simply poorly cooked kaya!

So that got me researching for a traditional kaya recipe which requires the eggs and sugar to be cooked first.  This recipe isn’t readily available but having spoken to several elderly folks, I became convinced that this is the way kaya was cooked in the past as they all tell me the same thing!

Traditional Hainanese Kaya Recipe
Deliciously smooth Hainanese style kaya

The Breakthrough

After many failed attempts, I finally met Irene Yip, 68, a culinary instructor in traditional local dishes.  Irene shared with me her recipe which she learnt from the “King of kaya” at Tekka market.  What I learnt from her is the proportion of eggs, sugar and coconut cream is simply 1:1:1 which makes it very easy to scale. The eggs and sugar need to be cooked for 25mins first and once the coconut is added, you need to cook it for another 35mins.  The minimum cooking time is 1 hour.  Anything less and the kaya may turn watery in the fridge.  She also said she would steam the kaya for another hour to deepen the colour and flavour.

Those tips were the breakthrough I needed. But I needed to know the science behind it and so I started to measure the temperature of the kaya as it cooks.  Since the coagulation temperature of egg whites and yolks are 80°C and 70°C respectively.  I decided that it is important that the kaya not to exceed 80°C in the cooking process.  It turns out that that is temperature we are aiming for!  Once the kaya reaches 80°C, it will start to thicken the longer you hold it at that temperature.  If you lower the temperature, the kaya will stop thickening. If the temperature goes higher than 80°C, the kaya will start turning lumpy.

Rice cooker kaya
Jars continue to cook in the rice cooker

The other breakthrough is that once you get the texture you want, you can essentially deepen the colour by simply cooking it at a temperature lower than 80°C without needing to stir the kaya!  That was when the rice cooker idea came about.  The “keep warm” function of the rice cooker keeps the temperature around 65°C. I have used to rice cooker “keep warm” function to make black garlic before, so I know that sugars will caramelize at this temperature over time.  I tried it and it worked!  I even kept one jar in the cooker overnight and it turned into a rich dark toffee colour!


Colour deepens the longer you leave it in the rice cooker

The longer the better?

So the question now is what is the optimum time to leave in the rice cooker?  To answer this question, I made a batch of kaya and set aside one jar that is just cooked.  The other three jars where placed in the rice cooker for a further 1, 2 and 3hrs (ie total cooking time of 2, 3 and 4 hrs.  Then I did a kaya tasting with my cell group members to see what is their preference.

In general, the group was split between the 1 hr kaya and the 4hr kaya.  The ones that like the 1 hr kaya are mainly the lady who enjoy the fragrance of the kaya while most of the men preferred the deep, bold caramel flavour of the 4 hr kaya!  There were a few who went for 2hr kaya because of the balance between fragrance and flavour.  My conclusion is that there really isn’t an optimal time to cook kaya because it depends on what you like.  If you prefer a lighter, more fragrant kaya, you can just cook it for an hour.  If you are after bolder flavours, you can leave it in the cooker for another 3 hours.  Experiment and decide for yourself what works for you!  But, if you are after the old school taste, then you should leave it in the cooker from anything from 1-5 hrs for the sugars to caramelize!

Recipe

The recipe is amazingly simple and easy to remember.   Eggs, coconut cream and sugar in 1:1:1 proportion by weight. All you need to remember is to set aside 20% of the sugar to make the caramel.

Ingredients (Makes 4,  200ml jars )

A
Eggs 420g (6-7 eggs depending on size)
Coconut milk 420g (Start with 500g, and measure out 420g after cooking with pandan leaves)
Sugar 340g
Pandan leaves 6 leaves knotted

B
Sugar 80g
Butter 20g

Method
1.  Whisk eggs and sugar till smooth and strain
2.  Place eggs in a bowl over boiling water and cook for 25mins or until the batter reaches 80°C. Stir occasionally in the initial stages of cooking and more constantly when the eggs start to thicken.
3.  Place the pandan leaves in a separate pot and add the coconut milk.  Bring it to a simmer and set aside while the eggs are cooking.
4.  Strain the coconut milk.  Measure out 420g and add this to the egg batter and cook for another 35mins or until the temperature reaches 80°C and the kaya reaches the consistency you want.
5.  When the kaya is almost ready (around 45 mins), melt the remaining sugar and butter.  Leave to cool a little and add to the kaya slowly.
6.  Continue to stir continuously until the consistency is like pancake batter. (It should be runny not pastey!)
7.  Fill the jar and cover with the cap. (don’t tighten)
7.  Place in rice cooker with water up to 3/4 the height of the jar.  Turn to “keep warm” mode and leave it for the next 1-3 hours.  My preference is 1 hr.

Additional Notes

1. I like to use the hand blender to whisk the eggs because it is quicker, but you can do it with a normal whisk.  The key is to break up the egg whites so that the mixture is smooth and even.  If you don’t do this properly, you might get streaks of white in your kaya.  You can just stir the eggs and sugar directly over the water bath, but I am just a bit OCD about these type of things.

2.  I recommend cooking the kaya in a glass bowl over boiling water. I have used a metal bowl before and found that it is a little harder to control the heat as the temperature of the bowl is slightly higher.  You will need to lower the temperature of the water bath to a gentle simmer if you use a metal bowl and keep stirring to make sure the eggs in contact with the bowl don’t thicken too quickly.  A glass bowl over gently boiling water is easier to control.

3.  You don’t really need to do anything at the start of the cooking process.  You only stir to even out the temperature of the batter.  The eggs will only start to thicken above 75°C  ie around the 20min mark.  That is when you need to start stirring continuously to make sure the eggs that are in contact with the bowl don’t get lumpy.  The romantic idea of grandma stirring the pot continuously for 3 hrs is probably told by grandpas to convey the depth of their love for the family!

4.  I like to steep the pandan leaves in the coconut milk first because I hate having the leaves in the pot while I am cooking the kaya.  By cooking the pandan leaves in the coconut first, the flavour of the pandan is already infused into the coconut milk.  Do not boil the coconut milk, just heat it up still it is steaming and leave the pandan leaves to steep.  10 mins is all you need.  Then remove the pandan leaves and the coconut milk is ready.  If you wish, you can add the coconut milk directly to the eggs at the 25min mark, then add the pandan leaves into the kaya at the 45 min mark.

5.  For the coconut milk, if you are going to make the kaya for your future mother-in-law in the hopes of securing her daughter for life, then go down to Tekka market stall 178 and ask the man to give you the best, handpicked coconut and get him to remove the brown skin on the spot and shred it.  If you use coconut that is shredded with the brown skin on, the kaya tends to turn a little grey.  Using white coconut, you will get a nice golden colour.  By doing this, you can wax lyrical about your effort in buying the best coconut, thereby showing the extent of your sincerity and future filial piety and chock up some points towards asking for her daughter’s hand in marriage!

If you are not wooing someone, then your next best option is to buy freshly shredded coconut from the market and squeeze it yourself.  Make sure it is the first squeeze.  No water should be added to the coconut milk.  I have used the fresh coconut from the supermarket cold section before as well as the UHT version from the shelves.  Frankly, they all taste good and you will not be able to tell unless you taste them side by side!  So for a start, just go for the easiest option!

6.  Start melting the caramel at the 45 min mark.  Once it darkens, let it cool a little and add it to the kaya.  Don’t overcook the caramel or else it will harden you will end up with bits of candy in the kaya! (Guess how I know?)  Add the caramel gradually and stir continuously or else the high temperature of the caramel will turn the kaya lumpy. Some people like to use gula melaka, but I think it will spoil the flavour of the coconut jam.  If you cook it long enough, the sugars in the coconut milk will naturally taste a little like gula melaka.


Cooking it longer at 80°C will thicken the kaya further (this is too thick)

7.  Most people like their kaya thick.  I used to think this way until I had the kaya at Rail Coffee.  Now I am convinced that kaya has to be more runny. When you are cooking it, always stop before you to get to the required thickness because it will thicken further in the fridge.   Coconut cream, like butter, is a saturated fat which will turn solid in the fridge.  So the texture you want is the texture when it is just cooked.  That is the texture that you will feel in your mouth when the kaya warms up to body temperature.  Kaya should be smooth, slightly grainy and very spreadable, like room temperature butter. It should ooze out of your toast when you gently press on it and drip onto your hands so that you can gleefully lick it off! This is the kaya that requires skill to make.  This is the kaya that all your friends will go “Ohhhh, kaya should be like this!”  This is the kaya that grandpa  and grandma used to enjoy!  This is traditional Hainanese kaya.

Conclusion

Please be part of the kaya revolution and help share this recipe with your friends!  It is my hope that it will inspire more coffeeshop and cafe owners to start making their own kaya so that we can all have seriously good, traditional Hainanese kaya to enjoy when we order our kaya toast!

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Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice @ Beo Crescent: Crispy pork chop is good but……

Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice @ Beo Crescent: our preference Hainanese Curry Rice is still….


Hainanese curry rice always has its charm to lure the customers for a plate of not so appealing rice that usually doused and soaked with red, orange and black thick gravy, it can be grossed at time but the curry magnetism somehow never failed to attract the formation of the perpetual queue.

It was only slightly after 11am but the queue in front of the Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice already made the wait a good test of the patience. The stall is not too far from another popular curry rice outlet – Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice from Tiong Bahru, it is our top favourite so far for Hainanese curry rice and the benchmarking we used for comparison.

Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice is located right in a coffeeshop next to the Beo Crescent Food Centre, there aren’t many tables around in the coffeeshop and you will be asked politely to give up your seats once you scrapped the last grain from the plate.

The usual Hainanese curry dishes are mostly available here, we ordered the Assam fish, Braised Tau pok, crispy pork chop, cabbage, Sambal satong and curry chicken, it costs $ 30.50 for four pax.

The rice was slathered with different types of gravy, from spicy to sweet and sour, it was a little complicated in the flavour but the odd mixture is generally acceptable and moreish.

(Rating: 3.5 / 5)

Assam Fish


Assam fish was way overcooked and the mediocre fish was further dragged down by the monotonous flavour from the pure sourness of assam, a featureless gravy which failed to do the credit to the dish. (Rating: 1.0 / 5)

Braised Tau Pok


There are different quality of Tau Pok available in the market, usually defined by the texture from coarse to fine, unfortunately, the braised tau pok here was the coarser type and lacked the delicateness, gravy was too ordinary further dampened the overall taste of the dish. (Rating: 2.5 / 5)

Sambal Satong

Compared to Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, the sotong from Beo Crescent Curry Rice was less meaty and tough in texture – a sign of overcooking of this invertebrate creature. Sambal curry was missing the flavour as well. (Rating: 2.0 / 5)

Cabbage


The cabbage was cooked to the nice soft texture with the lovely sweetness from the veggie. One of the two dishes we like it here. (Rating: 4.0 / 5)

Crispy Pork Chop


The signature crispy pork chop is the hits here, not the usual bread crumb coated thick pork chop, Beo Crescent Curry Rice has it pork chop thinly sliced, hammered, seasoned and deep fried to dark brown for a cracking biscuit-like texture, it is fragrant and addictive to the bites, my two adult kids were tempted to have second serving if not discouraged by the long long queue. (Rating: 4.5 / 5)

Curry chicken


The curry chicken was not tendered and bland in flavour from the insipid curry gravy, a disappointing dish. (Rating: 2.0 / 5)

Our verdict
Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice may be good with the unique crispy pork chop, however, the rest of the dishes we tried are too ordinary in the standard, it has a big gap when compared to Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice that has far superior with the quality ingredient, flavour and texture.

Where to go for good curry rice? Hmm…..we are quite sure it is Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice.

Overall Rating: 2.5 / 5.0

Beo Crescent Hainanese Curry Rice

A: Blk 40 Beo Crescent, Singapore 160040

H: Thu – Tue: 6.30am – 3pm, closed on Wednesday

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