Sunday, 8 December 2013

The best pancakes ever

There are pancakes, and then there are crispy-edged, light and fluffy American pancakes.

My flatmate shared this recipe with me, and it has been somewhat of a morning mantra – a guarantee of no more lousy breakfasts, as long as we've got eggs and milk in the fridge, and I'm willing to get out the mixing bowl.

This recipe is the one. If you're still looking for the perfect recipe, look no further than below.


135g/4¾ oz plain flour

1tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
130ml/4½ fl oz milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp melted butter (allowed to cool slightly) or olive oil, plus extra for cooking

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into a large bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the milk and egg, then whisk in the melted butter.

2. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, and using a fork, beat until you have a smooth batter. Any lumps will soon disappear with a little mixing. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.
3. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter (or olive oil). When it's melted, add a ladle of batter (or two is your frying pan is big enough to cook two pancakes at the same time). Push fruit into the batter in the pan now if you wish. It will seem very thick but this is how it should be. Wait until the top of the pancake begins to bubble, then turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1cm (½in) thick.
4. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Add butter or oil to the pan before each pancake for a better result.
5. Serve immediately with maple syrup, chocolate, or extra butter.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

New York Style Cheesecake

This recipe produces a perfect cheesecake – creamy, sweet, and addictive. I mean. Check. It. Out. New York Style, no less.

This sunshine circle of happiness is brought to you (and me) by Chef John from

New York Style Cheesecake
(recipe from foodwishes)

3 tbsp melted butter
18 graham crackers/digestive biscuits, crushed finely
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 8oz packages of cream cheese
1½ cups white sugar
⅔ cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1tsp finely grated orange zest


1. Preheat oven to 175ºc.
2. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
3. Mix crackers/biscuits and melted butter in a bowl until evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and about half an inch up the sides of the springform pan.
4. Whisk flour, sour cream and vanilla extract in a bowl, and set aside.
5. Stir cream cheese and sugar with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until evenly incorporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Pour milk into cream cheese mixture and whisk until just combined.
7. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
8. Stir in lemon and orange zests, and sour cream mixture. Whisk until just incorporated.
9. Pour mixture into springform pan and bake for about an hour, when the edges have puffed up slightly and the surface of the cheesecake is firm except for a small spot in the middle which should jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
10. When the baking time is over, turn off the oven and let it cool in the oven for 3 to 4 hours to prevent cracks in the cheesecake.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Long White Cloud

Located a few minutes away from Hoxton railway station, Long White Cloud is a Kiwi-owned free-range, free-trade café-cum-gallery space which serves up interesting brunch-type meals such as smoked salmon scrambled eggs and french toast with bacon and banana.

It was pretty filled at 11 in the morning, but not enough to gather a queue. The interesting thing about this café is the fact that they display local artworks which are also on sale. When I was there two weeks ago, Kate Ardern's intriguing 'Into The Wild' paintings were up on the walls, most of them already marked as sold.

I got myself a full English breakfast, something I realised that I'd not yet actually had in this country.

It was filling – I think the word 'full' applies to the state of the diner's tummy rather than what's on the plate. The food was alright, the beans felt home-made and authentic though, definitely not Heinz.

What still lingers in my mind is their peanut butter and banana smoothie which is so simple but so good. It wasn't too sweet, and both flavours were balanced beautifully, inspiring me to try blitzing my own sometime soon.

They've got an evening menu as well with the likes of pies, burgers and fish cakes. I'd love to go back there some time in the future (it's in East London, so if I sound slightly dramatic, that's because it is a pretty epic journey. At least to me it is, anyway) to chill in their intimate setting with some French toast and bacon!

Long White Cloud
151 Hackney Road
E2 8JL
tel: 020 7033 4642

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Frozen Cream Cheese Frosting Sandwich

So you made some pumpkin cupcakes or carrot cake last night, and topped it with cream cheese frosting, which everybody knows is the best thing ever.

And then...

...plot twist: There's leftover cream cheese frosting.

But wait! Before you stick your finger into the bowl or hold the piping nozzle over your mouth, run out to the shops (or open your cupboard if you're lucky enough) and grab a packet of digestive/tea biscuits – that's all you need for these frozen cream cheese frosting sandwiches.

Frozen Cream Cheese Frosting Sandwiches
makes ~15 sandwiches
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cups icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
~30 digestive/tea biscuits


how ever much cream cheese frosting you have left
how ever much digestive/tea biscuits is available to you

Instructions (really?)

To make the frosting:

1. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, (I used whisk attachments and it was fine) beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Reduce the speed and gradually add icing sugar, beating until just incorporated.
3. Add vanilla and cinnamon until well combined.
4. Increase speed to medium high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.


1.Pipe or spread cream cheese frosting generously on the flat side of one biscuit, leaving a little bit of space on the edges for the frosting to ooze out with pressure, and cover with the flat side of another.
2. Freeze for at least an hour.

The end product will be a sweet, delicious and moreish dessert snack which is super easy to make. The frosting hardens into an ice cream-like texture which holds itself well between the biscuits. Really, there's no excuse not to make these.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Homemade Potato Crisps

My flatmates are going home for the half-term break week, and have left behind some excess Maris Piper potatoes, so I thought that I'd try to make some potato chips. (Or crisps, as the British say)

They may look pretty decent, but these were the few successful, presentable ones. Many of them browned nastily, affecting the taste, and most of them crumbled after boiling. (Apparently boiling is only ideal for red potatoes)

If you haven't already guessed, this isn't a tried-and-tested-and-succeeded recipe post! The crisps were worth a try, but I'd much rather buy a packet of Walker's Extra Crunchy for less than a pound, than go through the process of slicing, seasoning and flipping. They've also got to be cooked at a temperature of about 220 ºC, which makes me cringe at the thought of my energy bills. #studentliving They don't even taste as good as a packet of crisps. They may be healthier, but if I'm going to have potato slices cooked in oil, it's going to be unhealthy no matter what, so I'd rather just go all the way and get me some Walker's.

If you doubt my beliefs, which might be a good thing to do, and really must have the recipe, here's what I've come up with from referring to Martha Stewart and Home Cooking Adventure.

Baked Potato Chips

3 medium potatoes
ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

ground herbs of your choice (I used oregano)
cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the fan oven to 200 ºC and lightly grease a few baking sheets.
2. Peel the potatoes and slice them potatoes as thinly as you can with a knife.
3. In a big bowl, combine all the other ingredients. Use your fingers to mix and coat the potato slices in the bowl.
4. Lay the potato slices out on the baking sheets in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, then take them out and flip each crisp over, to bake for another 15 minutes.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Dorset Cereals – Honey Granola

Dorset Cereals and their whole muesli thing has always appeared to me as overpriced bird food. (PS: I'm not a muesli fan) I do like granola, though, especially with nuts and honey, so I decided to give this box a try. (PS: It was on offer)

This cereal is seriously stripped down. Oats, pecans, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, all baked with the tiniest hint of honey and vanilla extract. This is perfect for people who absolutely love nuts and oats, as that's pretty much the main taste of the cereal.

I'm not too big on this cereal, but it's not bad either, considering how natural and healthy it is. A good choice for organic bunnies, but is definitely not for those looking for a Crunchy Nut or Cheerios alternative. And definitely no great after-cereal milk.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Perfect profiteroles

Just for the record, I made 50 of these on Saturday night, and they were gone by Monday night.

It is week three of my domestic independence here in London, and I've not had food poisoning, so all is well. To take a break from the long school days and exercise some productivity, I decided to bake some profiteroles, which doesn't require complicated ingredients nor much fancy equipment, perfect for a new-ish kitchen.

Perfect Profiteroles
makes ~30 small profiteroles
(adapted from essential desserts)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Extra equipment

Piping bag with long, narrow nozzle (How to make a DIY piping bag)


Choux Pastry:
50g (1¾ oz) butter
90g (3¼ oz/ ¾ cup)plain all-purpose flour, sifted twice
3 eggs, lightly beaten

375ml (13 fl oz/ 1½ cups) milk
4 egg yolks
80g (2¾ oz/ ⅓ cup) caster sugar
30g  (1 oz/ ¼ cup) plain all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

110g (3¾ oz) dark chocolate
2 teaspoons vegetable oil


To make the filling:
1. Put the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside while quickly whisking the yolks and sugar in a bowl until combined.
2. Whisk the flour into the egg mixture.
3. Pour the hot milk slowly onto the egg and flour mixture, whisking constantly.
4. Wash out the pan, return the milk mixture to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils and thickens. Boil for two minutes, stirring often.
5. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla extract.
6. Lay plastic wrap directly over the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming, then refrigerate until cold.

To make the choux pastry:
1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC, set on fan mode, and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. (210ºC for regular oven setting)
2. Put the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan with 185ml (6fl oz/ ¾ cup) water and stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and quickly beat in the flour with a wooden spoon.
3. Return to the heat and continue beating until the mixture comes together in a lump and leaves the sides of the pan easily. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Transfer to a bowl (I used a standing mixer for this) and beat to release as much heat as you can. Very gradually add in beaten egg, until all the egg is added and mixture is thick and glossy – a wooden spoon should stand upright in it. If it is too runny, egg has been added to quickly, and you have to beat for several more minutes until it thickens.
5. Sprinkle the baking trays with water to create steam for rising the pastry in the oven.
6. Spoon rather small heaps (they rise a lot) of the mixture onto the baking trays, and leave room for spreading.
7. Bake for roughly 20 minutes, (20-25 for regular oven setting) or until browned and hollow-sounding, then remove and make a small hole in the base of each puff with a skewer. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out. Cool on a wire rack, bottom-side up.

Filling the choux pastry:
1. Pipe the custard filling generously into the choux puffs with your smallest long piping nozzle through the hole in the base. The weight of the profiterole should increase noticeably after filled.

To make chocolate topping:
1. Chop the chocolate and put it in a large heatproof bowl with the oil.
2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and remove it from the heat, and sit the bowl over the saucepan, ensuring that the bowl does not touch the water.
3. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

1. Dip the top of each profiterole in the chocolate.
2. Allow to set or refrigerate in airtight containers before serving.

It was actually pretty easy to do, just quite time-consuming! But it's all worth it, plus you get to lick custard out of the saucepan and the piping bag. Also, don't forget that remaining chocolate dipping, which deserves to be eaten straight out of the bowl with a spoon!

On a side note, I was really lucky to have the sun shining gloriously into my bedroom the next day, through my sheer white curtains, onto a broad windowsill – is this the perfect food-photography setup or what? Who needs fancy studio lights? (Okay, granted, I had a DSLR camera on a tripod with big fat zoom lens)

Let's just hope that the sun decides to shine every time I bake something new. London, be generous!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fruit Paradise

I'm back in London and getting comfy in my new flat. The last of the freshers party was last night/this morning, yet I'm up early on a Sunday morning with a cup of hot chocolate and some quiet music. I have yet to do any serious cooking/baking, but I do need to get into this new habit of making practical meals for a busy midweek schedule.

One of my last few lunches in Singapore was in Fruits Paradise, a Japanese fruit tart café franchise which I'd been eyeing for a while. They've got all these amazing plastic tarts for display as well as the actual ones in the chilled glass shelves, gleaming like mountains of juicy gemstones.

For a little bit of hot food pre-tart-madness, my friend and I got a katsu curry with ebi shrimp and chicken nuggets, (SG$12.90) (above) which was alright. Funny that they should serve fries as well as rice, though!

Just look at that beauty. Gorgeous layers of light mousse and sponge, as well as mango cream and fresh mangoes and strawberries, lined with shortcrust and flaky pastry! This 'Summer Sunset' (SG$6.80) was delicious, and worth its price for the size, light taste, and definitely its visual appeal.

My friend ordered a choco mont blanc (SG$7.80) which came atop a brownie and chocolate shortcrust base. The mont blanc's chestnut taste was extremely mild, and I wasn't a fan of the pairing with hardcore chocolate components like the brownie base and the chocolate sponge within. Although I'm not much of an expert on mont blanc and have only had it once before, the tart wasn't bad, but an unfortunate hit-and-miss for me.

Because we just couldn't get enough of those tarts, my friend and I got a final mango tart (SG$6.80) to share. This. Was my absolute favourite. It is an amazing tart – there's a light, cream cheese base which worked really well with the sponge, mangoes and cream, plus the fresh mango slices topped it all off perfectly.

The tart pastry also really stood out for me in these tarts, they had a distinctive, golden (can things taste golden? I say they can.) buttery taste which complimented the creamy, fruity tops really well.

I'm definitely paying Fruits Paradise a visit the next time I'm in Singapore, their tarts are just the perfect [edible] centrepiece to any conversation!

Fruit Paradise (there are other branches too)
Ang Mo Kio (AMK) Hub
53 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wimbly Lu Chocolate Café

Exciting news of the day: One of the photographs from the previous post on Oreo Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake Bars made it onto foodgawker – at last! Admittedly, it was my fifteenth submission, but only the first successful one at that.

This can be due to the fact that my brother passed on to me his Canon DSLR camera a few days ago, along with two lenses: 50mm and 18-135mm. Proper food photography, here I come! (Hopefully)

So my birthday is on Wednesday. I'm a 9/11 baby, while my friend Janice is a 9/9 kid! It only made sense that two extreme foodies like us went to somewhere reputable for high tea.

We arrived about twenty minutes early to their opening time of 1PM, so we hung around the shophouses for a bit, where there were a few other bakeries and Western eating places, and also a cool-looking wooden table which gave Janice a flash of inspiration:

I know, I should totally go into portrait photography, right?

There's a lovely conservatory-style area at the back of the café, preceded by a dim but cosy seating area facing an open kitchen/bakery and chocolate display cabinet.

It was raining that day, and I actually suspect that they redecorate according to the season or occasion! My evidence: the staff were visibly buzzing around inside before they opened, and they could have been tweaking the decor! Also, I've seen pictures of the café filled with little hearts, all posted in February, as well as other similar pictures with Halloween lanterns. I'd be very impressed if they actually hung those raining clouds to reflect the weather outside! It really added a fantastic touch to Wimbly Lu's intimate and personal setting.

To make sure that we're having a legitimate lunch and not just stuffing our faces with desserts instead of having a proper meal, we ordered a double seafood and cheese toasty ($6) which was so-so.

Me made our next choice from having read other reviews and recommendations – waffle with salted caramel ice cream, plus a topping of maple syrup. ($8.50)

This waffle was pretty much perfect, it really hit that criteria of a crisp exterior and fluffy insides. From what I've heard, every single waffle served is just as perfect! Talk about quality control.

The salted caramel ice cream was delicious – flavourful but not sickeningly sweet. We definitely could have had a bigger scoop. The maple syrup was a good choice of topping as well.

Now I'm no expert on sticky date pudding, as this was my first one ever. I've got to say that it was delightful! Warm, gooey, sweet, and addictive. I only got to taste dates in my last mouthful, though. I'm not sure if sticky date puddings have to taste strongly of dates.

It would have made more sense for the dense, rich pudding to come with pouring cream or ice cream, but it didn't, so we ordered an addition scoop of honey cinnamon ice cream. ($3)

The cinnamon taste was a little stronger than expected, which was a surprise, but a good one – like apple pie in ice cream form! There wasn't much taste of honey, it was probably used mainly to sweeten. The ice cream flavour didn't go that well with the pudding. However, the texture was perfect in my terms. Not too icy, yet not too heavy and gooey – somewhere among that blissful in between. We found ourselves craving more of that honey cinnamon ice cream!

With service charge, the bill came to somewhere around $25 in total for the both of us, which is pretty reasonable for the great atmosphere and food. Wimbly Lu is definitely somewhere I'll return to for a relaxed dessert experience the next time I visit Singapore!

Wimbly Lu
15-2 Jalan Riang
Singapore 358987
Tel: 62891489

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Oreo Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake Bars

If there's one thing I know for sure, it is that baking is not for people who can't handle mess. These tediously-named Oreo Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake Bars will piss you off if you're not careful enough!

Fresh out of the oven, they look fine and dandy, and smell inviting as well. A little handling makes you realise that Oreo crumbs are falling everywhere like goddamn apocalyptic mudslides.

Crises aside, the Oreo Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake Bars were a good turnout. Initially, I assumed that the bars would be some sort of cookie-but-a-cake-too baking breakthrough, with the bonus aspect of Oreo cookies. I'm not too familiar with Snickerdoodle cookies either, so I wasn't too sure what the cake version of it was supposed to be.

This is pretty much a butter cake with crusty outsides and additional Oreos, cut into little blocks for bite-sized enjoyment. The Oreos do more for its presentation rather than its taste, which is mainly of butter cake.

Before things started getting messy

The edges and corners are the best, be sure to keep those bits for yourself!

Oreo Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake Bars


12 oreos (double stuff, obviously, if you can help it.)
192g flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
85g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (don't reduce this, it won't turn out too sweet, trust me.)
1/8 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg


1. Pull apart the Oreos by twisting them. Set aside the cookie with the cream layer attached. Crumble the layer without the cream into fine crumbs.

2. Sieve and whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

3. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla essence and egg and beat till smooth.

4. Fold in the flour mixture till just combined. Your batter will be pretty stiff and airy.

5. Spread a thin layer of cookie dough onto a 8x6 inch baking dish (mine was a little glass casserole) lined with baking paper.

6. Arrange the side of the 12 Oreo cookies with the cream layer onto the cookie dough, cream side up. (They'll probably overlap a little) Spread the rest of the cookie dough on.

7. Sprinkle some of the Oreo crumbs over the dough (don't use all of it, otherwise your Oreo crumbs will avalanche all over your kitchen table. I learned the hard way.) and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 to 45 minutes.

8. Remove from the baking dish and allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.

I wonder whether, if we mix the crushed oreos with butter and keep it in the fridge for a bit, we could form a sort of Oreo-spread for the top, which would stay together in the behaviour of a cheesecake crust. That would be a good solution to an ineffective sparse sprinkle.

It's Singapore's annual 'Teacher's Day' tomorrow, and I'll be heading to my previous school with twelve pairs of these bars to hand out to certain teachers and friends. They look pretty enticing, don't they?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sweet Home Farm Granola – Maple Pecan

It's been a while!

I wish I could say that I haven't been updating much because of my incredibly packed schedule due to being so super-popular that I have to meet up with three to four different friends per day, but that is not the case. While I am free and easy in Singapore, all my friends are in school on weekdays, and cooped up at home on weekends burying their heads in their books for the crazy school system which I've managed to escape!

Fortunately, before I head back to London next Wednesday, I'll be meeting up with friends for a bit, to celebrate birthdays and say goodbye!

When there is no pau, wonton mee, moon cake, egg tarts or curry puffs for breakfast, I grab myself a bowl, a spoon, some milk, and the carton of cereal above.

Wait a minute, those strange things don't sound like things people usually have for breakfast, says England. You're right, but only if you aren't in Asia.

Prior to contrary belief, Asians are in some ways pretttttty unhealthy eaters. Just walk through the Taiwanese streets full of fried-food vendors, or check out the Singporean ah peks ('uncles', i.e men aged 50-ish and above) in the kopitiams (hawker centres) at nine in the morning eating nasi lemak (fragrant Malaysian rice with varying side dishes) with fried chicken and egg.

To feel slightly back-to-routine again, I occasionally have a bowl of cereal when I sleep in and wake up too late to be served breakfast, or when Mum isn't in. USA-imported Sweet Home Farm cereals come in a fat carton and several other flavours which I haven't seen or tried.

The clusters in this cereal don't easily come apart like the one from Tesco, (which tastes amazing by the way) and the pecan nuts are wholesome and appealing. They taste noticeably unique, and far from the standard-sweetness of Tesco's and Sainsbury's versions – there's a deep, woody flavour in this cereal, a sigh of actual maple syrup! The sweetness doesn't hit you in the face, but there's a good amount which leaves a fabulous cereal milk to slurp up!

The milk used here is Pura's regular whole milk, which has been the standard purchase in the household for years – there's no annoying taste, yet it isn't completely bland, a perfect blank canvas for cereal-consumption, and even for drinking it on its own.

Going to creep to my kitchen now and eat out of the tupperware (which it has been transferred to due to potential pesky ants) with a spoon, shhh!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales Pub is located near Primrose Hill, on a bright, wealthy residential street. A little challenging to get to, especially on a hot summer's day with the London Underground acting up on a typical weekend, forcing you to squeeze on replacement bus services with sweat clinging on to everything.

Colourful nearby houses

I decided to pay this particular pub – which is quite out of the way for me – a visit as a result of winning Zomato's weekly Write-For-A-Bite contest. (They did originally offer me £50 off my bill at Bacco's, but there was some complication with the restaurant, so they gave me £30 off The Princess of Wales instead.)

The view from atop Primrose Hill

The pub was quiet upon our arrival at 1.30pm. (The transport delayed us for an hour. Welcome to London!) The sun was shining, and the shutters were wide open. The place is wood-panelled all over, with the bar in the middle, and there's a cosy garden-basement just down the stairs.

English pubs are great for getting, well, English food. My sister ordered some chicken with gravy and a Yorkshire pudding, as it was Sunday, and they had roast specials with a live jazz band playing at 4pm! The chicken was tender, the gravy just-right, and the veggies soft and generous.

Her husband got a prawn salad with beetroot, which was part of the Sunday specials as a main, but it was quite a scarce portion for the price. (approx. £13)

I got grilled sea bass with potatoes, sliced courgette, and smoked mackerel pâté. The sea bass was very impressive – it had a tasty, crispy skin, and soft meat. The mackerel pâté was particularly interesting – smoky, fishy, tasty, but rather oily – and went well with the cool courgette salad.

By the time the jazz band started playing, the pub was filled and buzzed with summer, pint-induced liveliness. Dessert was a scoop of salted caramel-flavoured ice cream atop a nut-filled brownie. The brownie had rather hard edges, but a soft, cake-y inside. The salted caramel ice cream was so good, I was tempted to lick the plate clean.

We ended up with a bill of about £60, but the voucher helped to pay half of that. The Princess of Wales is a great place to chill and have drinks with friends. Sunday brings you more reasons to visit, due to the roast specials and the live jazz band. A walk afterwards on Primrose Hill followed by a nap under a tree – there was no better way to complete this particular summer Sunday.

22 Chalcot Road
London NW1 8LL
0207 722 0354

Monday, 12 August 2013

Madam Kwan's

You may have heard of the newly-opened Madam Kwan's at Vivocity, Harbourfront, which has been highly-anticipated since its success from four branches in Malaysia. (Unless you don't live in Singapore, or don't know where it is. In any case, stay if you want to hear about this very particular Singaporean dining experience...)

I arrived at the restaurant before the rest of my family, and repeated to the dazed-looking table-usher a few times that, no, I do not want to make a reservation, I already have a reservation for five people.

Feeling quite thirsty after coming straight from work, I decided to order an interesting-sounding yam milkshake while the others come. (Sounds interesting, doesn't it?)Ordering in English seemed to be a mistake – the waitress replied me in Chinese stating that she didn't understand. Okay, I thought, strange for a restaurant in Vivocity, the ultimate tourist shopping mall. I repeated my order in Chinese, pointing to the item on the menu. She gave final confirmation by asking if she had circled the correct item on the mini-menu that she was holding. Goodness, yes, it was indeed a 'yam shake' which you have circled. Thank you.

The rest of my family finally arrived, and we ordered some dishes from the menu to share, and a plate of rice each. My milkshake arrived while we were ordering. I expected it to be purple, (most yam-flavoured desserts in Asia are purple) but I thought that it was white because of a lack of artificial colouring. I took a sip, frowned, and took a few more – lo and behold, it was a regular vanilla milkshake. (Man, I still wonder how a yam milkshake tastes like.)

I waited for us to finish ordering the food, before I spoke up. The waiter suggested the assam fish head while we were making decisions. My sister and I quietly flipped to the item on the menu, and it was priced at SG$49. (£24.50) Sly move, sir – that was what our eyes said when they met – but thankfully nobody on the table was up for fish that night, and the suggestion didn't lead anywhere.

Then I requested a change of drink, but the waiter refused. Why, I asked, the waitress who took my order made a mistake, I wanted yam, not vanilla. It's a restaurant regulation, he politely stated – once a customer tries their food, the kitchen can't take it back. My family and I exchanged amused faces.  Then, he said, you shouldn't have drunk it, if you wanted to change it. Internal laughter of disbelief rippled through the table.

"How would she have known it was wrong, if she didn't drink it?" Many variations of this was thrown towards the resilient waiter, who didn't bat an eyelid, and refused, again and again, without much apology.

After lots more slightly heated demands for explanation, as well as some mutterings of 'bad service' under our breaths, the waiter couldn't be persuaded. We gave up, and I drank that vanilla milkshake. (I've never seen a yam milkshake on a menu before... I'm really curious.)

The food came fast in a flurry, the plates all barely fitting onto the table. The best of it was the fried chicken – lovely tenderness, and a nice, crispy skin. There was also some great but spicy sotong, (squid) kangkong, (water spinach) and chicken curry – the latter had a distinct flavour of coconut milk, which was nice but activated a siren against my diet plan! The beef rendang tasted so-so, but was bad on the presentation front: plonked on a plain diner's plate, about three stingy scoops, with two pathetic cucumber slices sticking out of the side of the plate. Costing somewhere between SG$10 to SG$13, (£5 to £7.50) it certainly wasn't worth it. The beef satay was big and chunky but lacked charred, complex flavours I could get from my own barbecue party, although the accompanying peanut sauce was great.

The drinks were rather overpriced – SG$5 for my brother's 'Honey Lemon Tea', which was basically water, lemon slices, ice cubes, and honey.

The bill came up to SG$144 (£72) for the five of us. For local food that we can easily find elsewhere – despite the higher quality of just a few dishes – it was not worth it, and I don't think I'll be going back to Madam Kwan's unless this branch at Vivocity does some serious staff-training and policy-reviewing. (How in the world does a yam milkshake taste like!? I NEED TO KNOW!)

The information presented in this account is true to the best of my knowledge. I wish Madam Kwan's all the best, and hopefully I'll see more customers and better staff on a Sunday night in Vivocity the next time I visit.

Also, I was not happy about having to pay compulsory service charge. Singapore needs a lesson or two from the UK.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Flor Patisserie by Chef Yamashita

Flor Patisserie is a little bit of a trek for those who don't know the area well. Its closest MRT (stands for 'Mass Rapid Transit' – Singapore's version of the Tube/Underground) stations are Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, but Janice, Venetia and I unknowingly took a long walk from Outram Park Station with the help of a smartphone.

The patisserie is small – there's a capacity of six diners within the shop, with another three or so additional sets of tables and stools outside along the walkway. A few shelves affixed on the wall holds little bags of special cake-slices and cookies which are up for sale, such as walnut cookies, chocolate madeleines, butter cakes, coffee biscuits, sesame cookies, etc. Most of these have a covered bowl of sampling pieces by their side, which is great for curious tasters like myself.

The three-tiered display cabinet by the cashier was empty other than the top shelf, which was quite a shame, as options were limited, and it showed. Janice and I went for the mont blanc (above) for SG$6.95. (£3.50) After unwrapping the surrounding foil, there lay a light yellow sponge cylinder topped with chestnut cream, pierced by chocolate curls and a flaky pastry shard. Unfortunately, the latter was soggy and papery, and I felt that the dessert should have done without it.

The taste of the entire cake was extremely subtle, a la Japanese baking style of Chef Yamashita. The first bite didn't speak much, but the light chestnut flavour came through with more bites, and a single sweet chestnut is later revealed under the carefully-piped cream. Both the texture of the sponge and cream was light and airy, very easy to eat. It was my first time trying a mont blanc, and I quite enjoyed it, but I must say that it was overpriced for its size.

On a side note, check out this video of a Japanese YouTuber mum making 'dessert soba noodles'! (Actually a giant mont blanc) Watch until the end, her daughter's reaction is priceless.

I had a bit of Venetia's Wakakusayama, [pause to catch breath] which is a green tea Swiss roll filled with red bean cream, topped with fruits and sweet chestnuts. (SG$7.30, £3.65)

Janice is busy Insagramming her mont blanc too. A table full of mentally unstable people.

The flavour of green tea was strong in this cake. Rather heavy, almost bitter, not for those who usually stick to sweet treats. The red bean cream had a lot of authentic red bean taste, which is special to taste. 

My friends and I decided to share an 'Ice Cheese Tart' out of curiosity. Each tart costs SG$3.40 (£1.70), and has varieties of strawberry, green tea, maple, mango, chocolate & orange, yuzu and caramel, which we ended up choosing.

The 'Ice Cheese Tart' turned out to be pretty much a frozen mini-cheesecake stuck fast to a paper mould, with an almond biscuit base. It was pretty annoying trying to bite or cut through the rock-solid cheesecake, but we didn't have patience to wait for it to thaw either.

The taste of the cheese tart was striking, and absolutely great. There's a distinct saltiness in the cream cheese which really improves the flavour of it. I didn't notice any obvious caramel flavour, but I'm guessing it was infused into the cream cheese somehow. I wouldn't mind going back to try the other flavours, especially maple, but I do wish they would sell these un-frozen!

Just when the three of us thought that we'd had enough cake for the day, a tray of Strawberry Soufflé (SG$6.60, £3.30) magically appeared on the only-occupied shelf in the display cabinet when it wasn't there before, threatening to become dessert for our dessert!

Gotta have it, we thought. It was okay height-wise, but was a narrow slice. Piled with blueberries and strawberries encased in clear jelly, the cake is made up of a thick middle layer of light, aerated cheesecake topped with chantilly cream and strawberry chunks, all sandwiched between light sponge cake, plus fine biscuit crumbs stuck to the side.

It was a very impressive cake, and I loved the hint of lemon in the cheesecake, which gave it a quiet, pleasant tang. Despite it being cheesecake, it was not too rich at all, because of the soufflé technique used to create an airy texture. The other two girls commented on sour strawberries, but the ones I ate seemed fine. This is a cake I'd come back for, it's delicious.

Due to the long walk under the hot, late-afternoon sun, we each got iced tea to cool ourselves down and quench our thirst. Janice went for green tea, Venetia a peach tea, and for myself, a mango tea. (SG$4.50, £2.25, except for the green tea which was slightly cheaper)

The teas were very pure – teabag, water, ice cubes, and no added sugar. I could barely taste mango in mine, but it was refreshing, nevertheless. The staff at Flor gladly lets you top up the water in your cup, so you can maximise the use of the teabag.

We each ended up spending about SG$15 (£7.50) per person, with all the drinks and shared cakes. Not somewhere one would frequent as a student, but a nice, quiet place to go for an occasional dessert-escapade, especially if you're into Japanese desserts.

Flor Patisserie
2 Duxton Hill
Singapore 089588
+65 6223 8628

(Another branch at Siglap, plus a Takeaway at Takashimaya too.)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon

Hawker centres in Singapore are sheltered eating areas with rows of unique stalls selling a particular type of cuisine. Most of the local delicacies are present, including Chicken Rice, Roti Prata, (flatbread with curry) Yong Tau Foo, (a pick-n-mix of veggies, tofu, seafood and meat, to boil in soup, with or without the addition of noodles) and local desserts and drinks. There are also stalls selling Japanese, Korean, and Western food.

Really, one can never run out of options at a Singaporean hawker centre. There is most likely something for everyone.

My mum brought me to try out the Fish Head Bee Hoon at Balestier, which was preceded by a 10-minute long queue. (Worth noting that the other stalls had under three customers at a time)

Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon @ Whampoa Makan Place is mended by two stall owners – a cook, and a lady who handles the orders and payment.

At $3.50 (£1.75) for a pretty big bowl, it's great value. There's nothing to pay for service nor eating area. Just grab your food and find a table. That's why I love eating in hawker centres.

Yes, that is a bucket of plastic chopsticks.

I often find myself thinking that London needs something like this. I'm tired of going into places and sighing at the price labels, the voice in my head whining, "But... but I'm a student..." I'm tired of supermarkets (and not even all of them) being the only cheap option, I want a budget dining-in choice like good old Singaporean hawker centres!

I'm no expert on Fish Head Bee Hoon, as it's not one of my usual hawker choices. However, after trying this one from Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon, it has become a favourite! I love the light, milky, fish stock soup, as well as the slippery, thick rice vermicelli. The meat from the fish's head is cooked to perfection, stiff enough to grasp with chopsticks, but not tough or rubbery, and it falls apart nicely when eaten. This particular stall is awesome, because there is a generous serving of sliced fish. It is infuriating when you get lots of noodle, soup and vegetable, but just two pieces of meat. There's another version in which the fish is fried in batter, which I'm eager to try – an excuse for another visit!

Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon
Whampoa Makan Place
Block 92 Whampoa Drive
Singapore 320092

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