Sunday 31 January 2010

Chinese New Year Flower Fair - 新年花市

Usually during a month or so before Chinese New Year, there will be a lot of places selling all kinds of imported flowers or plants from China and the neighbouring countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and etc. Flower nurseries/gardens will bring in all kinds of auspicious flowers/plants to welcome a new head start of the year.

Every year for about the past 5 years or so, there is always a mini "Flower Fair" which showcase more than 50 different types of flowers/potted plants from the neighbouring countries. And each year the whole market area will be crowded with people of all ages who comes to admire or buying these plants. And only on occasion like this we are able to see all kind of festive flowers that brings up the atmosphere of the surrounding with their multi colourful petals.

So sorry that I can't named all the flowers/plants that appears in these photo because I am also not sure of their actual name. But all these beautiful flower can't resists my intention to share with all the readers on the coming Chinese New Year mood.

From this photo, you can see some of the common Chinese New Year plants that can be easily found in most household during New Year visit. "Pussy willows - 銀柳" which is in the middle are well known for it white or silvery buds that are silky and when they blooms it will emerald green leaves sprout that gives it a new lease of life to which it will symbolise a new beginning, prosperity and signs of growth. These are usually sold in bunches of different length or colour which will look great in a long vase.

Next you can see pots of, "Mandarin Oranges - " that comes in different sizes. Some belief that the bigger it is , the bigger it represents bigger opportunities, it also speaks of sweet success too. During Chinese New Year, everyone who goes to house visiting/greetings will accompanied with a pair of oranges which is a traditional practice among the Chinese. It symbolises "Gold" and all the good wishes for the new year.

Other than the two main plants, you can also see "Red Radish" which symbolised "Good Luck - 好采头" and "Lucky Bamboo - 开运竹" which represent a harmonious balance of all the five elements of nature -" water, fire, earth, wood and metal".

Other than the usual Chinese New Year plants, some businessman or folks also love to get Pomegranate plants which some believed that they can use it's stalk of leaves to cast away evil spirits or bring them "Good Luck". And a pot of 3Ft or above Pomegranate plant might cost up to S$100 during this Chinese New Year season. But so far, I don't really see they bear any big fruits of those kind that is sold in the supermarket. Next popular on the flower might be the "Orchid" plants around the flower fair but I am not sure what special meaning it has for the New Year. Maybe those of you know any clue on this can drop me a note to share with us.

Other than the flower fair which is near our area, we also visit the "Flower Nurseries" along Thomson Road area. Everyone of us feel so excited with the Chinese New Year atmosphere with all these colourful New Year flowers/plants. There are at least about 4 nurseries along the stretch of road, so do drop by before Chinese New Year which falls on 14 February 2010 to embrace yourself with all these wonderful sight.

Look at this set of combination, I love those pots of "tiny daisy" which look like little smiling faces that can easily brighten up your days. I am not sure what is the name of the colourful flower that is shown on the bottom left. This pot comes with a bunch of very colourful tiny flowers that really caught my attention at 1st sight. And when you take a closer look, you can also find the a pot each of the red and white cherry blossom from the photo.

From the 1st picture on the left, you can see the "Nepenthes" being decorated with New Year decorations. But Rey was much more interested on the wall of "Ferns" which comes in different colour and types. Along the way while admiring those potted tangerine, we spotted 3 interesting plant. The one shown on the bottom left look like a "huge hand" which is called the "Yellow Lotus Plant". Second on the row, is the "Ling Zhi - 灵芝". At the first glance, we still thought it is not a real plant because we hardly see any real Ling Zhi around in Singapore. And this pot of Ling Zhi cost around S$90+. As for the last picture on the right, it has a very unique name which called "Nipple Fruit" which is similar to tomato family.Posted by Picasa

So... why not join in the Chinese New New countdown and immersed yourself in the festive season Flower Fair.....

Sunday 24 January 2010

Birthday Treat @ Sakae Sushi Part III

This is our 3rd visit to Sakae sushi in the month of January. As we are all busy with work and etc during the weekday where my Birthday falls on, we decided to make it up for a weekend dinner instead. While flipping through the menu, we are struggling on whether to settle for Teppanyaki or Ala Carte Menu. And after some voting, we decide to get one item each from our favourite section.

First, we have a plate of this Bamboo Clam from the Teppanyaki Menu which cost about S$8.99. The bamboo clam is fresh, springy and nicely infused with garlic bits that enhance the overall flavour of this dish. I recommend to eat this dish with steam rice so that you can enjoy the yummy gravy with it.

It has being long time since my last tried on this "Agedashi Tofu" from the menu. I remember I used to love this dish a few years back and I even tried a few recipes on making this dish at home. I love the tofu which has a crispy outer layer, when bite the center is so soft and silky. This tofu goes well with it's special Tentsuyu broth which is make with Dashi, Mirin and Soy Sauce.

Tempura Ramen is something new to us today compare to the usual Tempura Udon or Ten Don(天丼) that we usually ordered from the menu. So far I notice that most of the Ramen in Sakae came in a very "HUGE" serving bowl which will give you a fright on the content in it. From the photo, you can see that the Ramen is served in some cloudy white colored broth, with soft-boiled egg, kamaboko, spinach and etc. And it is also served with a pair of deep-fried tempura prawns. We don't really like the taste of the Ramen broth which we find it rather salty.

We love Unagi, especially the Unagi Don, but today we would like to try something new so we pick up this "Unagi Tamago Toji" from the Hotplate section. Imagine, combining the yummy Unagi with Tamago Toji(eggdrop soup) on the Hotplate and served piping hot together with a bowl of steam rice. Wow.. isn't that great for a hearty meal where you can enjoy fish, egg, vegetables and mushroom all in one.

I used to love this deep-fried sushi which is coated with a layer of batter which makes it taste crispy and fragrant. Fried Maki is one of the colour plate item found under the Side Order Menu. I have not tasted this for about a year or so and today we find that it is rather not the same taste as what we used to have before. Maybe is the ingredients or somehow rather something is different from the past. Posted by Picasa

Saturday 23 January 2010

Almond Cookies - 杏仁饼

Because of my colleague Rebecca who loves to eat "Almond Cookies", she asked me to help her google some reliable recipes that will produce those melt-in mouth type of texture which she is looking for. But when she tried the recipes that I gave her, the result was not what she expected. And since I also can't find the recipe that I used for making the Almond Cookies for her two years ago. I decided to pick one from the web (which I google for so long, seems harder to find almond cookies compare to the rest) which I think might work well from the ingredients and photo shown.

Most of the Almond Cookie recipes call for either melted butter/oil or both. Some use a little as 1 Tablespoon of Ground Almond whereas this recipe that I try from Malaysia Best website, she actually use equal amount of ground almond to flour. But instead of following her using Caster Sugar, I thought maybe I can swap it with Icing Sugar which is similar recipe to the Peanut Cookies that I did earlier. I also replace the freshly roasted and grind almond with those pre-packed ground almond meal for this trail bake.

Ingredients: (24 Cookies)
100g Ground Almond
100g Top Flour/Wheat Flour
50g Icing Sugar
30g Butter, cut into small cubes
70g Peanut/Corn Oil

Egg Wash:
1 Egg Yolk + 1 Teaspoon Egg White, beat well

1. Mix flour and sugar in a mixing bow and rub in butter till resemble bread crumbs.
2. Stir in the ground almond and mix well.
3. Next slowly pour in the oil and knead till it form a dough.
4. Set a set to rest for 20 minutes then roll into marble sizes.
5. Brush it with egg wash and bake in pre-heated 175 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes.
6. Leave it on cooling rack to cool completely before storing in air tight container.

I don't know how come my Almond Cookies seems kind of flatten like those Westen type of "Almond Cookies".... Em... I think aparts from the swappig of items from the original recipe, I did add in like 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder to the flour mixture... Wondering will this affect the outlook of the cookies? But despite on the different of the outlook from the usual almond cookies that is sold for Chinese New Year. The one that I made here, look kind of like those "Traditional Flat Almond Biscuit" sold in those old bakery shop. Em... I shall let R tried a few of this when I get to see her at work next week......But for me and my family, we find this cookie is rather towards the crispy type compare to those those melt-in mouth texture. Posted by Picasa

Peanut Cookies - 花生酥

After resting for a week or so, I have some discussion going on with my colleague R regarding on what to bake for Chinese New Year. She was telling me that she had a few packets of chopped peanut being left over from the instant "Tangyuan - 汤圆" that she bought during December 2009 "Dong Zhi - 冬至".

Since I have not make any "Peanut Cookies -花生酥" before, I decided to do a google search for some suitable recipes, but some of it don't really look appetising from the photos. So after some mix and match on the recipes that I settle on one that I feel is easier to prepared and will yield good results based on the comments given.

From some of the recipes that I google it didn't really mention which type of peanut to be used for the recipe. So in order to save time for the trial baking, I bought the pre-packed ground peanut powder which most people used it for dessert purpose. The peanuts are finely grind into powder like texture and mixture of caster sugar based on the packet ingredients stated. So in this case, I have to cut down the amount of sugar used so that it is not too sweet due to the extra sugar in the ground peanut mixture.

Ingredients: (makes 36 marble sizes)
100g Ground Peanut Powder
100g Top Flour/Plain Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
50g Icing Sugar
60g Roasted Salted Peanut, finely chopped
70ml Peanut Oil/Corn Oil

Egg Wash:
1 Egg Yolk + 1 Teaspoon White, beat well

1. Mix flour, baking powder, ground peanut and icing sugar(sieved) together in a mixing bowl.
2. Next toss in the chopped peanuts and mix well.
3. Slowly add in peanut oil (you might required slightly 10 - 15ml more) to mix the flour mixture into a dough. (after stir in the oil with the spoon, use hand to knead and mix the dough will be much easier)
4. When the dough bind together, shape the dough accordingly to your preference size and shapes, brush with egg wash.
5. Bake in preheat 170 degree oven for about 15 - 20 minutes(depend on the sizes) till golden brown.
6. Set it aside on cooling rack to cool completely before storing it in air-tight container.

This is one of the most easier to prepare Chinese New Year cookies based on the short-cut that I have taken for the ingredients use :p But if you have the time for doing the preparation, I encourage that you might want to spend some time to roast the peanut till fragrant then grind it so that it will produce a even more fragrant and melt-in-mouth effect. Posted by Picasa

But no matter which type of methods/recipes your prefer, below are some interesting links that you might want to read about on their recipes/tips on making peanut cookies which I personally think is very useful:-

1. Malaysian Best - Peanut Cookies
2. Happy Home Baking - Cookie Galore
3. Do What I like - Chinese Peanut Cookies

Pork Rib Soup - 得运肉骨茶

Trying out this Pork Rib Soup - 肉骨茶 stall that is located at Block 417 of Jin San Leng Coffee Shop at Yishun Ave 11 was never list even though we used to patronise that coffee shop after our usual Sunday church service. But after watching one of the episode from "New City Beat - 城人新杂志" whereby they feature all the yummy food that is available at this stall, we decided to join the crowd for a try.

We reach the coffee shop around 5.45pm but there was already a large crowds of customers waiting for their food to be served. So while ordering, the person who takes the ordered alert me that we might have to wait for around 20 - 30 minutes for the food to be ready.

We ordered their famous Prime Rib(排骨) Soup whereby the the meat will be soft and of good quality. The taste of the soup is great which is not heavy infused by the spices or herbs, but I think it can be better if it is slight less salty. (you can also ask for re-filled of the soup if you wish to have a 2nd helping)

Braised Pork Trotter is always one of my favourite childhood food which my dad always cooked it for us at least once a month. Honestly, I think a bowl of good and flavour braised pork trotter lies on the spices and the texture of the trotter. And the braised trotter at this stall is just nice, the layer of "fat" is so soft and yummy when you put into your mouth and the meat itself is also tender to bite.

Other than pork ribs soup and braised trotter, this stall also have other signature dishes like pork liver or kidney soup, steam fish, fishcake and etc. So if you happen to drop by Yishun area, perhaps you might want to give this stall a try. Posted by Picasa

Thursday 21 January 2010

White Bee Hoon @ You Huak Restaurant

Wondering whether you still remember a few week ago, I have shared with you some tasty BBQ Chicken Wing from a coffee shop stall opposite Sembawang Shopping Centre? Today, we will be exploring another coffee shop around the same area which is called "White Bee Hoon - 白米粉".

You Huak Restaurant is located at a corner of the road junction with 3 huge yellow square signboard written with the word "白米粉" which you can see it from far away. In this coffee shop there is only one "Zhi Cha stall - 煮炒摊" that is always packed with waiting customers who comes to patronise their signature dish which is the "Teochew Style White Bee Boon".

For today's dinner, we ordered 3 side dishes plus their signature "White Bee Hoon". Since it is around dinner time, the area is packed with a lot of waiting customers and we waited for about 20 minutes or more before the dishes arrived. First to be served is our favourite "Sweet & Sour Pork - 咕嚕肉" dish which cooked with a mixture of pineapple, assorted bell pepper and etc. Although the appearance of the dish look great and the sauce is appetising, but we find that the pork is rather a bit too tough. Maybe it had being over deep-fried or the type of meat use is rather not suitable. So in this case, we only rate it as 5.5/10.

Next to be on the table is their "Teochew Seafood White Bee Hoon", although this might look rather plain or simple but the taste is indeed good. From a glance around the coffee shop, you can see almost each and every table has a plate of this White Bee Hoon with different ingredient such as seafood, fish, or normal.

This seems to be a cross between zhi cha Fried Bee Hoon and "Hokkien Fried Prawn Noodle - 福建面". Both are fried with prawn or other ingredients then braised with some gravy and egg sauce then served with small lime for that extra fragrant. This dish also come with their special homemade belacan chilli which makes the bee hoon even more tastier.

We also ordered our all-time favourite which is this "Xia Zao - 虾枣". There are a few version of this tradition dish, some of it consists of ingredients such as "prawn, yam cubes, five spice powder and etc". The one that we had from this stall look great on the serving prawn, but the inner filling is too dry and it also taste salty compare to some of the best one that we have tried before. So this is not a recommending dish unless you prefer this kind of texture/taste.

We love this... I think this taste even better than the "Xia Zao". The bitter gourd is cut into slices (which in this case, they cut it slightly thicker than the usual one that we cooked at home). The egg and the bitter gourd is nicely fried and the aroma is so fragrant that you will want to keep on eating it. According to the waitress, they have two different version of fried bitter gourd egg, one is dry which is the one you saw on the above photo while the other is the wet version which consists of gravy and egg sauce.

Other than these 4 simple dishes, they also have a lot of signature dishes that you might be interested to explore with. I saw people having crabs, flower clams(la-la), crayfish and etc... all are worth trying.....

Monday 18 January 2010

Pizza Hut @ Causeway Point

Today we are having our dinner at Pizza Hut as Rey suggests that he would like to have pizza tonight. As usual, we arrived at the nearest Pizza Hut outlet near our area which is location at level 1 of Causeway Point Shopping Mall, just beside John Little Department Store.

While looking at the menu, we are caught up by this great promotion which cost S$11.90 for a 5 course delights which included starter, soup of the day, choice of your main course(pizza, pasta or bake rice), beverage of your choice and dessert of the day..... So without further delay we start off with our order......

The Soup of the Day is one of my favourite which is "Cream of Mushroom". At least this does not taste like those "Instant" soup or so, you still can see generous slices of Mushroom in it. Overall we are still satisfy with the taste of the soup, but if they comes with a slice or two of garlic bread for dipping it will be even better :)

We ordered two sets of the 5 course deal and one of the main course is this Chicken Pomodoro. I have heard and read a lot of good review of their new pasta range, so we decided to get something new from the menu. Chicken Pomodoro is made up with Olive, freshly made tomato sauce/diced tomato with Italian herb like Basil. Overall this is a very refreshing dish and we love their pasta sauce which taste just nice for us.

From the menu, they suppose to give us the CrissCross Fries but according to the staff who takes our order, she told us that it had being replace by the Starry Munchies which is the star-shaped hash browns fried to golden perfection. Rey loves this, as it comes with a crispy outer skin and he ate one portion of the two servings.

Other than the Chicken Pomodoro Pasta, we also ordered one of our all-time favourite which is the "Hawaiian Pizza" that spread with succulent chicken ham and juicy pineapple chunks. Although the flavour it still the same as before, but I think we didn't specify that we prefer a thin crust base so in the end the pizza that served to us was those soft and fluffy texture which we don't really fancy.

After an hour of so of waiting and eating, we finally finished our dinner and now it's time for our dessert. I guess that day was pretty crowded in the restaurant and we waited roughly about 20 minutes for our "Ice cream". In the end I still have to approach 3 different waitress before the dessert is finally being served to us. Posted by Picasa

Sunday 17 January 2010

Birthday Treat @ Sakae Sushi Part II

Today's lunch was a very special treat because Rey had being looking forward for it for a long long time. He has being talking about having SAKAE sushi with his best Facebook playmate.... "Ah Pooh" since the 1st day she return to Singapore. Joyce is a very good friend, sister and listener of mine thru MSN and facebook for the past two years while she was away in Australia :) And with similar tastebuds as us, she is also one of the Sakae sushi fan.....and she loves the raw Salmon slices ...just the way I do.....

But today's lunch treat, we have special mission.... Joyce was curious on how I take my photo shots before the meal and what are the angles that I will snap and etc... So this lunch was actually a very interesting and meaningful treat. Secondly it also meant for us to have an early celebration for my coming birthday in Mid January.... :p

Other than taking the usual items that we like, we also ordered 3 special items that we are going to try and share with the readers. First to arrive on the table is the"Beancurd Roll" shown on the first photo on top, but we are kind of shock with the dish. Because it seems rather different from what we saw from the menu which is something shown on the sakae photo above. As you can see from the Sakae photo, the white portion(seems like the doufu) is thicker and it clean and crispy on the outlook rather than the black sauce that drizzle on our serving....... Although the sauce taste quite nice, but it is sort of contradict to the photo shown on the menu which might be a bit misleading....

While flipping through the ordering menu, J & I decided to ordered this "Tempura With Yuzu Soba" which we find it worth the price of S$13.99 which consists generous amount of cold Yuzu Soba, a plate of assorted Tempura Moriawase. When we are busying taking photo shots of this dish, we are kind of caught off with what is the purpose of that little quail egg. Since we have not come across using this egg in any soba dish that we have tried before, we decided to approached the store manager for help. And she was very kind enough to explain to us that the egg is to be crack into the soba dipping sauce and eat together with the noodles. So at least in the end we knew that it is the same as what we thought it is used for :)

The Yuzu Soba taste great with it's QQ texture and a light "Yuzu" fragrant when you chew in your mouth. And this sure goes well with the deep-fry Tempura Moriawase.

Cabbage Roll is another dish that we ordered from the Veggie Delights section. Em... seems like today most of the items are from the Veggie section :p From what I remember, this used to be a similar Chinese dish where they wrapped the meat mixture (minced meat & prawn with some chopped carrot, water chestnuts and etc) with blanched Cabbage, steam it over medium heat till the meat is done, then drizzle some oyster sauce gravy on top of it.

The one that we have today is quite similar to the type I mention above, but the different is the one that served at Sakae is more of mixed vegetables filling such as Shittake Mushroom, Carrot and Enokitake Mushroom.

As for dessert, Joyce prefer something cold and sweet so she decided to go for the Peach Mochi Ice Cream. Em.... so far I have tried all flavour of Mochi Ice Cream except this peach flavour but personally I still prefer the Lychee flavour which is more fragrant.... em... wonder will Sakae bring in some DURIAN flavour... :p Posted by Picasa