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Easy Tamagoyaki (Stacking Method)


(serves 4)
Tamagoyaki is the sweet omelette in the shape of a brick that you find on a Sushi platter. At home you can serve it as an amuse-bouche or a side dish. Tamagoyaki only requires a few simple ingredients but the typical method of making them can be technically demanding, requiring the rolling of multiple omelettes into a square Swiss roll on a hot pan before they fully cook. This takes lots of practice to get right as you have to work deftly. Fortunately there is an easier way for the novice that results in a perfect Tamagoyaki the first time and every time, the Stacking Method.     
 

Ingredients

  1. Eggs (4)
  2. Mirin
  3. Hon Dashi
  4. Sugar
  5. Nori (Dried Seaweed Sheet) – optional

see notes below for alternatives to
Hon Dashi and Mirin

Preparation 

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve 1T of sugar and 1 flat t of Hon Dashi granules in 1/4 cup of warm water.
  2. Add 4 eggs and 2T of Mirin to the bowl and beat the mixture until it becomes a fairly uniform yellow colour.
  3. Use a small pan, a pan that has a flat bottom. Place it on very low heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it around the pan.
  4. Ladle into the pan enough egg mixture to cover the whole pan without you having to tilt it. If the egg bubbles, splutters or gets cooked instantly, then pan is too hot. When the egg is almost cooked, flip the slice over to cook the other side. Next, flip the omelette sheet onto a plate and leave the pan off the fire for the time being. The omelette should be of the same thickness throughout, which is why the pan needs to be flat.
  5. Add a new ladle of egg mixture to the pan and put it back atop the flame. When the egg is almost fully cooked and only a thin film of raw egg is left on top, remove the pan from the fire. Using the back of a spoon spread the remaining raw egg evenly over the entire surface of the omelette sheet.
  6. Stack the first omelette sheet onto the one in the pan and return the pan to the fire. Press down with a flat spatula to ensure the raw egg is evenly distributed and after about ten seconds when the two sheets have fused into one, flip them back onto the plate.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 adding more layers until almost all the raw egg mixture is used up and you end up with a block of Tamagoyaki as shown here. During the whole process add oil as required.
  8. Cut the block exactly into two halves. Smear a thin film of the remaining raw egg mixture on the top of one half-block and place the other half-block back in the pan, again on low heat. Next, position the hot block onto the other block with the cut ends on the same side and press down firmly. The idea is to let the hot egg cook the film of raw egg to cement the two blocks together.
  9. Allow the new tall block to cool and then wrap it in cling film. Sandwich it between two plates in the fridge. When the Tamagoyaki is cold, pad it dry with some kitchen towels, trim away the uneven bits at the edges and then cut the block into mini-bricks.
  10. Wrap each brick with a strip of dried Nori seaweed. The Nori should overlap at the bottom and a dab of water will suffice to join the two ends. This allows your guests to eat their Tamagoyaki with their bare hands if they wish.

Notes

  • Ideally you should use a Makiyakinabe pan. This is a pan that has three vertical sides and is rectangular in shape, as shown here. Modern ones are now made of non-stick material. Your next best alternative is one of those small pans for frying one egg at a time.
  • You definitely want to avoid burning the egg. A slightly browned patches are ok, but no more than that. You can notice in the top picture there is a brown line running along my Tamagoyaki, which is what will happen if your fire is too strong. Using a low flame may not be enough. Move the pan away from the fire often and make frequent use of the residual heat to cook the egg. Also, only pour in the raw egg mixture after removing the pan from the fire. Patience wins the day.
  • You also want to cook the egg evenly. To do this move the pan around so the fire is not concentrated on one spot for too long. This also prevents the egg from getting burnt.
  • You can skip step 8 depending on how big your pan is, how many Tamagoyaki bricks you want to end up with and how tall you’d like them to be.
  • If you have no Hon Dashi, you can substitute in 1/4 cup of any kind of (salted) stock you fancy.
  • If you have no Mirin you can boil 4T Sake with a dab of maple syrup down to 2T to make your own substitute.
  • If you are into Japanese egg recipes, two others I have on this site are: Steamed Chawanmushi and Runny Yolk Eggs for Ramen.
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in A Kobi Original, Appetizers, Japanese, Recipe

 

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Homemade Faux Smoked Salmon (i.e. without smoker)


(4 servings)
I recently confirmed that one can make Smoked Salmon without a smoker. The is a simple no fuss method of making smooth and luscious Smoked Salmon at home, and there is no need for brining either. It is essentially a variation of cured salmon fortified with a combination of dark muscovado sugar and a dash of liquid smoke. With its rich smoky flavour and deep colour, nobody will be able to tell that your smoked salmon isn’t smoked at all.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Salmon Fillet (300g)
  2. Coarse Sea Salt (1/2 cup)
  3. Dark Muscovado Sugar (1/4 cup)
  4. Dill Weed
  5. Whiskey
  6. Liquid Smoke

Preparation

  1. Your salmon should be of the Supreme cut (thick boneless fillet) as opposed to a Darne (cross section with back bone and belly flaps). Don’t use fronzen salmon. Leave the skin on. Rinse the fillet and then pad it dry with kitchen towels. Next, marinate in a mixture of 1T whiskey, 1t liquid smoke and 1t chopped dill weed.
  2. While the fish is marinating, combine half a cup of coarse salt and a quarter cup of dark muscovado sugar. The muscavado is clumpy, so make sure they are thoroughly mixed.
  3. Open a square sheet of cling film on a cutting board and spoon half the salt/sugar mixture on to the middle in the shape of your fish, only slightly bigger.
  4. If your fillet is thin at one end cut it off and stack it on top to get as close to a rectangular block as possible. Place the salmon on the bed of salt and sugar skin side down and spoon any remaining marinade over the salmon. Top off with the remainder of the curing mixture.
  5. Wrap up the salmon and place in a glass, ceramic or plastic container (concentrated salt corrodes metal).
  6. Put the container in the fridge. Flip once after an hour and again every 6 to 12 hours. Some brine will seep out, which is desirable. Drain away any liquid (without unwrapping) each time you are flipping the wrapped package.
  7. For a relatively thinner slice of salmon (like the one I’ve used) allow the salmon to cure for 24 hours. If you are using a thicker slab of fish (which is preferable) leave the salmon to cure for 36 hours.
  8. After the curing is complete, unwrap and rinse the salmon thoroughly. The surface will appear rough and dry, don’t worry, after slicing this will not be noticeable. Pad the salmon dry with kitchen towels and leave uncovered in the fridge for an hour or so to dry before you slice it.
  9. To slice, place the block of ‘smoked’ salmon with skin down on the cutting board. Make a thin slice not quite to the skin and then a second slice all the way down and then carve the knife outward. If done right you should end up with something with a nice V shaped pattern. If there is a bulge at the joint slice lightly to flatten the slice. Repeat until all the salmon is butterflied so. Salt is a preservative but you should still keep the sliced salmon in the fridge wrapped in or covered with cling film until you intend to serve them.

Notes

  • Smoked Salmon is best served with capers, slices of red onion and creamed horseradish.
  • What is the difference between Smoked Salmon and Gravlax? Gravlax hails from Scandinavia and besides salt and sugar it is also cured with crushed pepper, juniper berries and a lot more dill and alcohol than this recipe uses. The salmon will usually be put under a weight to squeeze the water out, to compensate for the reduced salt in the curing mixture. Gravlax is normally marinated a further day in mixture of oil and dill whereas smoked salmon is smoked instead.
  • What is the difference between Smoked Salmon and Lox? Lox is a Jewish-American delicacy that brines salmon for an extended period of time which gives it a very intense and saltier taste, hence the need for cream cheese and bagels to go with it. Lox is also not smoked. Its long brining period means Lox can only be made from the fat belly parts of the salmon. Most of the Lox served in American delis is actually Smoked Salmon.
  • Remember to wash your hands before touching the fish after it is cured to extend the longevity of your smoked salmon. You might also wish to rinse the curing mixture off with cold boiled water instead of running tap water for the same reason. 
  • Muscovado sugar has an intense smoky molasses taste which complements the effect of the liquid smoke well. For best results don’t use any other type of sugar even if it is brown. Muscovado is moist and clumpy and comes in light and dark varieties. Look for it in the baking section of supermarkets and make sure you get the dark variety.  
  • The dill is to help more marinade cling to the fish since it is quite watery, so if you don’t like the taste of dill use another herb instead of just leaving it out altogether.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Appetizers, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Simplified Chicken Cassoulet


(serves 2)
Cassoulet is a hearty meal-in-one dish of poultry, pork and beans in a tomato sauce from Languedoc, in the south of France. This is my simplified method for making a Cassoulet using everyday ingredients like chicken legs and baked beans. It’s not exactly the same as what you’d find in Toulouse but I think you’ll find its a close enough imitation as long as you’re not French. More importantly my recipe only takes 1 hour to prepare and cook instead of a whole day if you were to do it ‘properly’.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Chicken Leg with Thigh (2)
  2. Pork Sausages (2)
  3. Pancetta (100g)
  4. Onion (1/2)
  5. Shallot (4)
  6. White Wine (1/2 cup)
  7. Baked Beans (1 can, small)
  8. Oxo Beef Cube (1)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

  1. Peel the shallots but keep them whole. The half onion should be cut into 3 wedges.
  2. Trim (and retain) any excess skin and visible fat from the chicken. Season the chicken legs with a dusting of pepper, but no salt.
  3. Fry 100g of diced pancetta in a pan on low heat with 1T oil (goose fat if you have any) together with the chicken trimmings and the two pork sausages.
  4. When the fat from the pancetta begins to render, add the shallots and onions to the pan. Move the contents of the pan around to prevent them from getting burnt until the onion breaks up into soft pieces.
  5. Pour everything from the pan into a casserole. The Casserole should be tall enough to prevent boiling over. Drain the oil back into the pan and turn up the heat.
  6. When the pan is hot, brown the chicken in it. The chicken shouldn’t be in the pan so long that it gets cooked completely.
  7. Place the browned chicken in the casserole as well and arrange all the contents snugly as shown. Sprinkle some black pepper over everything.
  8. Preheat your oven to 180oC (350oF).
  9. Melt 1 Oxo Beef cube in 3/4 cup of hot water and use this stock to deglaze the pan. Turn on the heat again and add 1/2 cup of white wine and the can of baked beans. While the mixture is being brought to a boil, add 1T Tarragon, 1T thyme, 1t coriander seed powder.
  10. After the sauce has been boiling for half a minute, pour it into the casserole. Place the casserole in the oven for 25 minutes, uncovered. The cooking time may vary slightly, you’ll know its time when enough of the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is partially exposed.
  11. You may serve your cassoulet immediately but it can also be put aside and reheated later, it will taste just as good. It is traditional to serve the whole casserole (as per below), with the individual plating done at the table. The dish has a lot of sauce, so it goes well with baguette or some other kind of bread.

Notes

  • If you haven’t cooked an authentic cassoulet before, here is a summary: Cassoulet is usually served with Duck Leg Confit instead of chicken and this is to be roasted separately. You’ll also need Toulouse Sausages which are hard to find, plus you also have to soak beans ahead of time and cook them for a really long time to get them soft. Other typical cassoulet ingredients that I left out include tomatoes, celery, carrots and laminated pork.
  • The nice thing about canned baked beans is they come pressure-cooked and their sauce has the same effect as the gelatin you would normally get from cooking pork skin in the Cassoulet for a long time. Baked beans are thus the secret to the greatly reduced cooking time.
  • Speaking of pork skin, if you’d like you could try adding pieces of smoked ham hock if you so desire; treat them the same as the sausages.
  •  Some recipes sprinkle breadcrumbs on the cassoulet to form a crust, but I don’t belong to the crust camp.     
  • You can use a pot or pan instead of glass or ceramic ware as long as they come with an all metal handle. Be warned – if you use an oversized sized container the liquid level will be too low to cover the chicken initially and it will get burnt. A solution is to bake the casserole covered and then again uncovered at the end. 
 

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Rich White Chicken Ramen


(serves 3)
This is a relatively easy way to make an impressive rich chicken stock for Ramen, on par with those in Ramen restaurants. You won’t need to grind bones and slave over the simmering stock for hours, simply by using soy milk as the secret ingredient. A lazy man’s Torikotsu Ramen if you will. The Chicken Chashu and Caramelized Leek used in this recipe give this Ramen its own character.  
 

Ingredients 

  1. Chicken Wings (8)
  2. Chicken Breast (2 halves)
  3. Ramen Noodles (3 servings)
  4. Bacon (3 slices)
  5. Soy Milk (1.5 cups)
  6. Eggs (3)
  7. Leek (1)
  8. Hon Dashi
  9. Soya Sauce
  10. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Sesame Seeds
  13. Coriander Seed Powder

The Night Before 

  1. Rinse the wings, they must be whole, not just the mid-joint. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Place the wings into the boiling water together with 3 slices of bacon.
  2. Cut the leek into half. It should be at least 1 inch in diameter, or else use more than 1 leek to compensate. Place the top half with the leafy portion into the pot and retain the lower half for later use. Keep the pot on a very low simmer for an hour and then leave covered overnight.
  3. Brine the 2 pieces of chicken breasts in a solution of 4T salt and 4t soft brown sugar dissolved in 4 cups of cold water. Make sure all the meat is submerged and keep them in the fridge overnight. (refer to the link in the notes below if you haven’t done this before)
  4. Boil some water in a different pot and place 3 eggs in the boiling water for 7 minutes and then straight into iced water. This is to get the yolks runny but the whites cooked, the so-called Ajitama style egg. Shell the eggs carefully and soak them in a solution of 1T of soya sauce and 0.5t of soft brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Keep them in the fridge overnight as well. (again refer to the link in the notes if you haven’t done this before)

The Next Day

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer again. Boil until the volume is reduced to about 3 cups. In the meanwhile…
  2. Rinse the brined chicken breasts thoroughly and marinate in 2T sesame oil, 1t Chinese Wine, 1t coriander seed powder and 2T sesame seeds.
  3. Take the boiled eggs out of the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature.
  4. Julienne the remaining half of the leek. Pan fry the leek in 4T of oil until they are light brown. The leek should continue to darken for a while after your turn off the fire.
  5. Pour the stock through a strainer to remove any sediment, discard all the solids. Pour the filtered stock back into the pot. Add 1 chicken stock cube, 2t of Hon Dashi and 0.5t of sugar, followed by 1.5 cups of soya milk. Bring to a simmer again.
  6. Remove and reserve half the crispy leek from the pan for later use as garnishing. Add some of your chicken soup to the pan with the other half of the crispy leek, stir and pour everything back into the soup pot.
  7. Arrange the sesame seeds in the marinade onto the chicken breasts like a crust. In a toaster oven, cook the chicken breasts for 10 minutes at 150oC followed by another 10 min at 200oC. Alternatively you can roast them for about 13 minutes in a regular oven preheated to 180oC. In either case the chicken is done when it begins to shrink. Check visually to make sure you don’t over cook.
  8. Allow the breasts to rest and when at room temperature slice them as shown below. Deglaze the baking tray with some of your chicken soup and pour everything back into the soup pot.
  9. When the soup has been reduced to 3 cups again, skim off any film that has formed on the surface and it is ready for use. Check for taste and add a bit of water or salt as needed; remember that Ramen soup has to be more salty than regular soup.
  10. Cook the raw noodles in a separate pot of boiling water. Strain the noodles and separate them into 3 large bowls. Add boiling soup and top off with the chicken slices, the crispy leek and the eggs sliced in half.

Notes

  • If your chicken breast came with the breast bone, cut this out carefully and boil it with the wings. In fact any chicken bones you have on hand can be added to the stock pot. They will increase the gelatin content of your stock. 
  • Your soya milk should not be of the sweetened variety. It’s the type some people add to their coffee in place of creamer.
  •  If you are unfamiliar with brining, you can refer to this page (but ignoring the poaching part).
  • If you are unfamiliar with making runny yolk eggs, you can refer to this page (but ignoring the optional part).
  • Use whatever type of noodles you like but if you want to be authentic and can’t find real raw ramen noodles, you can make ramen noodles out of spaghetti following the procedure from this page.
 

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Making Ramen Noodles from Spaghetti


(serves 3, scalable to however many)
You can change Spaghetti into Ramen noodles. This faux Ramen derived from pasta has got the bouncy texture of and a similar taste / aftertaste to real Ramen noodles. The special ingredient for making Ramen noodles is Kansui, an alkaline mineral water.  What we are going to do here is use Bicarbonate of Soda to duplicate the alkaline effect. Boiling the pasta in alkaline water allows it to absorb more water than usual without getting soggy. Granted the result is not as perfect as fresh Ramen, but it’s close enough if you can’t buy authentic raw ramen near where you live. 

Ingredients

  1. Spaghetti (250g)
  2. Bicarbonate of Soda
  3. Vinegar (white)

Please prepare the soup, meat, toppings etc. ahead of time and have them ready before your begin making your Ramen.

Preparation 

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Separately boil some additional water in a kettle for later use.
  2. Add 2 flat t of Bicarbonate of Soda to the pot. This will increase the pH of the water to the necessary alkalinity.
  3. Boil the spaghetti in the pot as per normal. After a while you will notice a few things that are different from when you normally cook pasta:
  4. Firstly the water will really foam up as the Bicarbonate reacts with the starch in the pasta. I included a photo of the reaction so you won’t be shocked when it happens. Anyway, this is why you need a larger pot than usual.
  5. Secondly, the water will become a bit slimy or gooey. This is normal, the same thing happens when you are boiling fresh raw ramen.
  6. Finally, as the pasta cooks it will turn into a deeper shade of yellow than usual, to the colour of ramen.
  7. When the noodles are done they will be a bit thicker than you’d normally expect of pasta because more water has been absorbed. For your first time it’s better to test the noodles by bite rather than relying on sight. You want the noodles to be just fully cooked, not al dente.
  8. When the noodles are cooked, immediately add 6T of a white type of vinegar, like rice or malt vinegar, into the water. Lemon juice should work too. Give the pot a good stir, you will get a second round of foaming as the bicarbonate is neutralized. This will get rid of the bitter taste.
  9. Pour the contents of the pot into a strainer and then give the ramen a good rinse with some very hot water from the kettle.
  10. Your Ramen is now ready for consumption.

Notes

  • I wish I came up with this great idea but the credit belongs elsewhere. I came across it in a Japanese website.
  • If you have a choice, buy the smallest guage spaghetti that you can find, i.e. the one with the smaller n number. This will maximize the surface area to volume ratio. In fact Spaghettini might be even better, but I hardly ever see any in supermarkets. I’ve also tried capelli (angel hair), but I found it to be too thin.
  • There is no need to add oil to the pot as the bicarbonate reaction stops the pasta from sticking together. Besides, you don’t want oil to coat the pasta and inhibit the alkali from getting into the pasta..
  • There is no need to add salt to the pot as sodium bicarbonate when neutralized becomes a type of salt.
  • What about the rest of the Ramen? Not to worry, my site now has recipes for all the components of Ramen.
    1. try the Soup Recipe from here
    2. try the Chashu Pork Recipe from here
    3. try the Ajitama Egg Recipe from here
 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Ingredients, Japanese, Pasta, Recipe

 

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Flourless New England Clam Chowder


(serves 10)
New England or Boston Clam Chowder, the ultimate blending of seafood and vegetables in a hearty soup. When you are making 
America’s most famous soup there are a few things you want. Thicken the chowder without any taste of flour, make the chowder faster without having to wait an eternity for the potatoes to disintegrate, give the chowder rich layers of flavour. After a lot of trial and error, I think I have come up with just the right recipe to achieve all these things. 

Ingredientsclam chowder 1000

  1. Canned Clams in Brine (3 x 184g)
  2. Bacon (6 slices)
  3. Canned Anchovies in Oil (50g wet weight)
  4. White Wine (0.5 cup)
  5. Potatoes (5 large)
  6. Leek (1 stalk)
  7. Onions (2)
  8. Scallion (10 stalks)
  9. Mascarpone (125g)
  10. Bread (4 slices)
  11. Hon Dashi
  12. Sherry
  13. Dill Weed

Preparation Part I

  1. Cut the crust off 4 slices of bread and leave in the fridge to dry overnight.
  2. Peel the potatoes. Boil 3 (not all 5) of them in a large pot with 10 cups of water.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, cube the bread into 1cm pieces and crush them into crumbs in a plastic bag with a mallet. Toast the bread cubes lightly if they are not crispy enough to be smashed.
  4. Dice 5 slices of semi frozen bacon and allow them to thaw.
  5. Fish the potatoes from the pot after boiling them for 20 minutes. Keep the water on a low simmer and put the bread crumbs in.
  6. Julienne the onions. Partially open a tin of anchovies and pour its oil into a pan. Fry half of the onions on low heat in the pan, stirring occasionally.
  7. In the meanwhile dice the remaining 2 potatoes into 1cm cubes. Julienne the scallion and the leek. Don’t add them to the pot just yet; you can put the cut vegetables with the raw onion bits.
  8. When the onions have become limp and translucent, mash the anchovies in the tin itself and add to the pan. Stir fry for a minute to mix the anchovy into the onions, turn up the fire and then deglaze the pan with half a cup of white wine. Bring to a boil and after a minute pour the contents of the pan into the simmering pot.
  9. Next, stir fry the bacon bits in the same pan. When the bacon fat has rendered and the bacon begins to brown add the brine from the clams, reserving the meat for later use. After a minute after it reaches boiling, again pour the contents of the pan into the (still simmering) pot.
  10. When all the breadcrumbs have melted, mash the 3 cooked potatoes and add the mash to the pot followed by all the vegetable bits. Add 1T of Hon Dashi pellets, 1T dill weed and 1t sugar. Top up with water such that everything is submerged. Continue to simmer for another 40 minutes stirring occasionally, then leave the pot covered on the stove to cool.
  11. When you are about ready to serve your clam chowder, bring the pot back to a boil and add the clam meat. Place 125g of mascarpone in a bowl with some hot liquid from the pot. Mix until all the lumps are gone and pour back into the pot.
  12. Add 3T of sherry and 1t black pepper, simmer for a further 5 minutes and then add salt (and sugar) to taste. Serve with oyster or other similar type of unsalted crackers

 Notes

  • If you have fresh clam meat you can add that to the chowder in step 10, but you still need to use the canned clams, for the clam brine.
  • Yes I did not use any celery in my recipe, its not essential in my opinion. If you insist on adding some chopped celery, fry them with the onions in step 6.
  • If you are using waxy type potatoes, you can keep the skin on the diced potatoes if you prefer. Depending on the size of your potatoes you may need more than 5; I’ve assumed the use of large ones. For a thinner chowder, mash only 2 potatoes.
  • If you don’t have any Hon Dashi, you can substitute in any kind of seafood-type stock cube.
 
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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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Kobi’s Top Picks for Singapore Local Food and Where to Eat Them


(I’ve just updated this old post from 2012)
I‘ve been asked so many times by people about the best local food to try on their upcoming visit to Singapore that I’ve decided to make a post about it, so I don’t have to keep repeating myself. I’m even going to go the extra mile and say specifically where you should eat the top 10 Singapore foods, taking into account how hard it is for a tourist to find certain places. This is not the kind of thing I intended for Kobi’s Kitchen, but since I’m writing it all down, I might as well let everyone see it. It’s a long post, don’t read it for entertainment, save it for when you are going to Singapore.

As an introduction let me say that Singapore is a great destination for travelers who are into discovering exciting new foreign flavours and foods. Originally a small fishing village, modern Singapore was created through a steady influx of immigrants over a century or so under British rule. Unlike most other countries which have a cuisine culture defined by the surrounding local ingredients, Singapore had no preexisting  predominant cooking style. Immigrants from the Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and Hainanese speaking parts of China, the Southern parts of India, the Middle East and other parts of Malaya brought recipes from their homeland with them and these were adapted to make best use of the wide selection of ingredients brought in by trading ships from far and wide. Besides being modified, recipes were also hybridized. Singapore was a cultural melting pot and new dishes were created by combining the cuisines from its various sub-populations. This explosive culinary evolution of new foods left the small city-state with a disproportionately large cornucopia of uniquely Singaporean dishes.

In no particular order…

1. Pepper Crabcrab-900
Pepper Crab something unique to Singapore. It is made from giant Sri Lankan crabs which aren’t all that common outside the sub-continent. The crab is chopped up and then has its shell cracked before it is wok fried to let flavour penetrate right into the meat, which stays nice and firm. When the Pepper Crab arrives at the table, you will enjoy piping hot chunks of crab thoroughly infused with butter and pepper.

The dish was invented at the Long Beach restaurant and that’s where you should go to eat it. The original restaurant is along the east coast where all the seafood restaurants in Singapore used to congregate but today I think the best outlet to go to is Long Beach@Dempsey. It is a newer branch in Dempsy Hill, a former military base (that I worked in once upon a time ) now converted into a lifestyle district full of restaurants, bars and fine grocery stores. Other dishes to try at Long Beach include the Chili Crab and Australian Lobster in Butter and Crispy Cereal.

2. Bak Chor Mee Noodle Stall
While Asians traditionally serve noodles stir-fried or in soup, Singaporeans have a unique style of eating their noodles tossed in sauce. This is the closest thing in Chinese cuisine to Italian pasta. Bak Chor Mee was originally specific to the Teochew Chinese but has since become a national favourite. Egg noodles are boiled and then tossed with oil, vinegar, mushrooms and minced pork, meat balls and other ingredients. The soup that the noodles originally came in is served separately and you are supposed to drink it by itself. After you order some Bak Chor Mee the whole dish will be cooked on the spot right before your eyes.  You’ll be asked what kind of noodles you like and I recommend the type called mee pok, its like fettuccine. You’ll also be asked if want chili and you have to say yes or it won’t come out nice. If you don’t like spicy food, ask for ‘less chili’. bcm-440‘No chili’ will land you with a yucky children’s version using ketchup.

You can find Bak Chor Mee at the hundreds of locations around Singapore but the place I’d recommend to try it is the food court in the basement of Terminal 3 of Changi Airport. It’s the stall that sells Fishball Noodles. They offer a few different variety of tossed noodles and its the item numbered as 1 (note: for some strange reason it is not the leftmost item on the masthead menu). If it is at all possible, schedule eating this delicacy into your itinerary ahead of time; plan to have it either when you arrive in or when you leave Singapore. If your flight is at a different terminal, just take the free sky train linking all the terminals.

3. Seafood Hor Fun hor-fun-1100
I have to eat this every time I go to Singapore. It is basically flat rice noodles fried under high heat to impart texture and a caramelized flavour and then stir-fried with slices of fish, egg white, pork lard and miscellaneous sauces. It doesn’t sound all that fantastic, but believe me when I say it is. Many cooked food stalls and hotel coffee shops will serve this dish but undisputedly, the best place to try this is Ka-Soh Fish Head Noodle. ‘Ka-Soh’ is Cantonese for what the family matriarch calls her daughter-in-law so everything here is cooked in the traditional way passed down from generation to generation. You would think that best Cantonese food should only be found in Hong Kong, but this is clearly a case of an exception to the rule.

The Ka-Soh restaurant is in the Alumni Medical Centre on the fringes of Singapore General Hospital at 2 College Road, not easy to find or get to if you are a tourist. This is the outlet that was recognized by the 2016 Michelin Guide as a quality restaurant that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. However I suggest you go to their sister restaurant downtown at 96 Amoy Street, called Swee Kee(Ka-soh). This is actually the older restaurant of the two. You’ll find the walls plastered with the pictures of movie stars and celebrities who have come over from HK to eat there over the years. The other thing to try while you are there is of course is the restaurant’s eponym, the fish head noodle, a milky fish-head broth served with thick vermicelli. I also recommend their fried chicken marinated in prawn paste.

4. Char Kway Teow gkfkt-1000
This is a very, very delicious fried noodle dish that is synonymous with Singapore. Char Kway Teow is also made from Hor Fun but because this dish hails from to a different dialect group (Hokkien), the noodles are called by a different name, Kway Teow. Anyway that is where the similarities end. Char Kway Teow is served dry (i.e. oily), not in a sauce. A combination of flat rice noodles and round egg noodles are fried with soya sauce, egg, cockles, Chinese sausage and bean sprouts to give you a semi-sweet noodle dish to die for.

Char Kway Teow is notoriously hard to fry well and a hundred things can go wrong with it. The quality varies from place to place depending on the cook and ingredients. There are of course many famous Char Kway Teow stalls tucked away deep in suburban housing estates which are difficult to find for non-locals. The place I’d suggest to try is Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow (Char means Fried). Their stall is located in the Ghim Mo Market a few minutes walk from the Buona Vista MRT station. It also happens to be 4 stalls away from the Chicken Rice stall highlighted below in No.8 so you can kill 2 birds with one stone. I would suggest not going at lunch time unless you are prepared to queue for a long time.

5. Islamic Curry
There are many types of curry in cosmopolitan Singapore and one more special type is made by Indian Muslims. One of the oldest, if not the oldest shops serving this type of curry is the Islamic Restaurant at 745 North Bridge Road. This was my dad’s favourite and he used to tell me stories of how the restaurant gave free food to starving Chinese during the Japanese occupation. The restaurant has down-sized somewhat in recent times and sadly, many of the more traditional curries and drinks are no longer served. However, you can still pick your curry visually at the counter instead of ordering from a menu just like in the old days. You should still be able to order a drink called Bandung, which is rose hip syrup in milk. It’s perfect for cancelling the burning effect of chili effect if you are not used to spicy curry. Make sure to order the in-bone mutton leg and also the chili eggs. Forget about Nann, eat your curry with Briyani Rice.

If the restaurant is full, you can also try the equally famous Zam Zam and Victory, both of which are just a few shops down the road.

6. Kaya Toast 
This is a breakfast item, which is eaten also during morning tea break or afternoon tea. Kaya is a Hainanese egg custard made into a jam, a speciality of Singapore. You normally spread it on toast, typically with a slab of butter. Kaya toast is the Singapore equivalent of waffles with maple syrup, so people eat it any time of the day they like.

For the best Kaya Toast I recommend a place called the Killiney Kopitiam. In case you were wondering, it’s not an Irish pub; the shop is named thus because it is located on Killiney Road and has been there since before World War II. If you can’t make the trip to the original shop, Killiney has one kopitiam at each of all three terminals of Changi Airport. Another thing to try at Killiney is the kopi, which is a bitter shop-roasted Robusta Sumatran blend served with sweet condensed milk at the bottom of a glass mug. You stir the cup just enough to attain the sweetness you like. Leave the last mouthful of the coffee and remaining condensed milk at the bottom. A larger rival kaya toast chain to Killiney is Ya Kun. Their are famous for their pandan flavoured Kaya, which is green instead of brown. There’s no need to provide an address as they have over 40 outlets all over town. To find out more about Kaya, you can refer to my post about Kaya.

7. Laksa
Laksa is another of those hybrid Chinese dishes with its roots in a subgroup of Chinese intermarried with Malays, called the Nonya. The Chinese part of Laksa is the noodles and slices of fish cake, and the Malay part of it is the rich coconut curry broth the noodles are cooked in. Laksa has a unique flavour to it because of the addition of Laksa leaves and cockles in the broth. The noodles used in Laksa are very slippery and hard to eat with chopsticks and so an innovation called the Katong Laksa in an area of Singapore called… you guessed it, Katong, came about. It is different from normal Laksa only in that the noodles are chopped up so you can eat it easily with a spoon.

Nowadays there is no need to go all the way to Katong to try this. There is a Katong Laksa stall in the trendy Holland Village and that’s the one I usually go to. Its not in the Holland Village Market Food Centre at Lorong Mambong but in a row of shop houses at 31 Lorong Liput. Look for a sign that says 363 Katong Laksa. If you really want to try the original shop (and again this one will be plastered with the photos of movie stars eating their laksa) its at the corner of Ceylon Road and East Coast Road. In either case, don’t forget to ask to add ‘otak’ to your laksa. It is a special kind of fish cake BBQed in banana leaves.

8. Hainan Chicken Rice  tff-1000
This is a dish that is also universally associated with Singapore, in spite of the fact that it is called Hainan Chicken Rice. In the old days, one group of migrants from China came from the island of Hainan and they were known for their cooking (and laundry) skills. One of the dishes they invented or modified from their hometown recipes, I’m not too sure which it is, was the Chicken Rice. I won’t go into the details of cooking it but the chicken is simmered briefly in stock and then cooled immediately in cold water. Some of the stock together with garlic, pandan leaves is used to cook the rice component. The entire dish is eaten with a fixed set of sauces and condiments without which it is still not Hainan Chicken Rice.

Tourists are often directed to the Mandarin Hotel for chicken rice but it is mega expensive and its Chicken Rice is pretty average. The best chicken rice is made by Tong Fong Fatt. Besides having the most tender and succulent chicken, it differentiates itself by selling its chicken deboned and drenched in a special tasty marinade. Their stall is at the Ghim Mo Market a few minutes walk from the Buona Vista MRT station, the same food centre where you can find the Char Kway Teow stall mentioned in No.4 above. If you want to have Chicken Rice comfortably in a proper restaurant, then may I suggest Boon Tong Kee at 399 Balestier Road. This restaurant is open late into the night. If you have enough people, you can order a whole chicken. There are several other outlets besides this original shop, including one in River Valley Road.

9. Dai Pau 
Dai’ means big in Cantonese and a ‘Pau’ is a Chinese steamed bun filled. The Dai Pau can be made with savoury chicken or pork filling and will contain a chunk of a boiled egg as well. Dai Pau is dying out in Hong Kong although it is still served in a few banquet restaurants. The Singapore version on the other hand is sold everywhere (even convenience stores and gas stations). Reason: Hong Kong Dai Pau are 70% bun and 30% filling, Singapore Dai Pau are the opposite, 70% filling and 30% bun. Its thinner skin has given the Singapore Dai Pau enduring appeal to young and old alike. You will find the meat filling delightfully juicy, tender and flavoured with various herbs and spices, and slightly sweet. As the name implies, it is large compared to other types of steamed buns like the more common charsiew pau.

For the best Dai Pau, I recommend Teck Kee Tanglin Pau, a trusted name that has been in business since 1948. They make the variety of dai pau associated with the Tanglin district, which is the agglomeration of all the residential areas that rich people have their homes past and present. At Teck Kee, you can also find many near extinct dim sum like the Coconut Tart. You can also try the Fan Choy (ask for 2 Siew Mai to go with it). They have a shop at 83 Killiney Road (pictured) near where the original Koek Road shop used to be and a second one at 180 Bukit Timah Road if you happen to be going to the Newton Food Centre.

A famous rival to the Tanglin Dai Pau is the Tiong Bharu Dai Pau. The Tanglin Pau uses a light colour filling but the Tiong Bharu versions are made with a dark filling (i.e. dark soya sauce marinated). That’s how you can most easily tell the two apart. These can be found in, you guessed it, the Tiong Bharu area. I usually patronize the Tiong Bahru Pau & Snacks at 237 Outram Road (pictured) but I understand there is also a popular store selling the Dai Pau at the nearby Tiong Bharu Market Food Centre on Seng Poh Road.

10. Bak Chang
This is a rice dumpling normally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival by Chinese across the globe but in Singapore they are available all year round. An assortment of goodies (depending on which part of China the original recipe is from) are packed into a pyramid of glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo leaves and then steamed.

The store I’d like to recommend is called Hoo Kee Rice Dumpling and it can be found at the Amoy Street Food Centre #01-18, within walking distance from the Seafood Hor Fun shop mention in No.3. Choose the variety of dumplings that are stuffed with pork, chestnuts and salted egg yolk, they are simply the best. Get there before lunch time for they are often sold out before the lunch hour is over. Another famous place for Bak Chang is Eastern Rice Dumpling at 300 Balestier Road. This is reasonably near the Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice mentioned in No.8. They have a variety of nice dumplings but one I’d like to highlight is the Nonya Bak Chang. The Nonya are early Chinese settlers of the Malay British Straits Settlements who studied in English schools and adopted many of the local Malay cooking practices. Nonya Bak Chang is therefore quite unique, nothing like any traditional Chinese varieties; as its filling expect a mixture of pork belly, mushroom and candied winter melon flavoured with five spice and pepper. They are traditionally wrapped in pandan instead of bamboo leaves.

Three Bonus Snacks (I know that makes it 13 actually)

A. Old Chang Kee Chicken WingsWings
Old Chang Kee was a famous stall selling curry puffs next to Rex Cinema in the 1950s which has grown to become a large chain of fast food outlets selling curry puffs. The Old Chang Kee Wings are HUGE and more importantly they are the best fried chicken wings in the world, something to do with the secret marinade they use on the chicken and/or the batter. There are outlets are in many shopping malls so there’s no point singling out one for you. As a local I patronize the outlet at the Barker Road Caltex petrol station next to ACS (where I went to school) and when the lady asks how many wings do you want? The reply is usually “all of them”. OK, while you buying the wings don’t forget to try the curry puffs as well. They are quite nice or Old Chang Kee would not have thrived all these years, plus it is somewhat unique to Singapore. The original puff is called the Curry-O and you should try that first and then if your stomach still has any space left you can think about the other flavours.

B. Cold Ching Teng
Its pronounced Ching Terng and it means clear soup which is a misnomer because it is not a soup, and neither is it clear. Ching Teng was originally a hot long-an(a fruit) soup back in the old days in China but in Singapore it had evolved into a cold dessert served with shaved ice. There are bits and pieces of all kinds of things in it like pearl barley, dried persimmon, ginko nuts, lotus seeds and of course rehydrated dried long-an. It’s perfect for quenching the thirst on a hot day (basically every other day in Singapore) or as a dessert after eating curry or food with chili. One famous place serving this is Shan Ren Cold and Hot Dessert at the Newton Food Center, its stall no. 88. There’ll be dozens of other desserts pictured on the store front so you can try a few other desserts while you are there. If you like something with more shaved ice, try Ice Kachang, another Singaporean specialty.

C. Bak Kwa
Bak Kwa is the local name for barbecued pork jerky. Unlike western beef jerky, Bak Kwa is not tough. The meat is vacuum treated to tenderize it and then it is barbecued with sugar and spices and all things nice. The leading brand Bee Cheng Hiang has shops everywhere so you no longer have to go to Chinatown to buy it. Check their website for a convenient location. I recommend the Golden Coin or Minced Pork type Bak Kwa if you like a really tender piece of jerky. They also sell pork floss if you are into something drier.

Other Contenders for the Top 10
Many of these are just as good but I didn’t want my list to expand to a top 20 list, its already long enough. Try them, especially if you are on an extended visit.

    1. Fried Carrot Cake
    2. Hokkien Prawn Noodles
    3. Chinese Pork Satay
    4. Oyster Omelette
    5. London Duck (Four Seasons Restaurant at Capitol)
    6. Ngoh Hiang
    7. Poh Piah
    8. Roti Prata
    9. Kweh Lapis
    10. Pineapple Tarts
 

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