Monday, May 31, 2010

Gastronommy on Facebook Pages

I've been asked a number of times now if Gastronommy has a Facebook page.  The whole thing seemed a bit narcissistic* and redundant since I'm on your RSS feed, twitter or maybe email newsletter.  However, I've finally been sold by Kien from SENATUS.  So, don't leave me hanging out alone on facebook  (it really didn't take that much convincing on his part to be honest).  Join Gastronommy's Facebook page here or click the Facebook box on the right side column of this site!

*narcissistic back when it was called "Facebook FAN Page" instead of simply "Facebook Page."  Bah, semantics.

Q+A with Chef Bruce Lim

See this previous entry about my visit to the AFC workshop in Singapore with Bruce Lim!

What inspired you to become a chef?  

My grandmother, she always had time to cook for the family… I remember when I was a boy I use to love to watch her cook, the smells and sounds of her kitchen made me feel at home. That’s why I feel close to her when I cook.

I remember you mentioning that your father rushed you off to Le Cordon Bleu in London after you were considering the army, but does cooking run in the family?

Ha ha it was actually the marines… and yup all my aunties and uncles can hold their own in the kitchen. We are a family of critics and foodies.

Has it always been a passion?  Or did you discover it somewhere along the way?

I can truly say that it is a passion I always knew that I would end up in the kitchen, but what I realized along the way was how much I love it!

Who is your favorite chef and what is your favorite restaurant?

Wow, this is a tough question! There are so many great chefs and great restos out there it hard to pick just one.  But I do admire Thomas Keller and his resto the French Laundry.

As a Cali guy...

Haha you have to bust my chops huh, for being a Cali guy!

To be fair, in front of the journos at the AFC workshop, you busted my chops for being a New Yorker! 
...Any thoughts on the Slow Food "movement", figures like Alice Waters, or sustainable farming?

I am all for it.  I feel that it should be the way we go with everything that we do from restaurant use to personal consumption. Not trying to be a tree hugger or anything, but there a some fish that I use to catch and eat when I was a boy, and now due to over fishing and pollution you cannot catch the fish anymore.  And if you do I don’t dare eat it.  I can’t say where I would fish so I don’t offend anyone hehe… but now my son will never know what the fish tasted like. I find it real sad.

How's your Tagalog?

Great question, it is not too bad. I have had time to practice on some local shows… for Tablescapes I normally speak in English. But when I do local TV shows I am forced to speak in Tagalog. At first I was not the best but now I can hold my own.

What's the name of your upcoming restaurants in Manila and California?

The name is Chef’s Table by Chef Bruce.  Simple.  No plans of opening one up in California yet. Going to start off with Manila first… if that goes well why not!

Where and when will we be able to find it?  Is it comfort Filipino food or are you putting a personal twist on it?

The one in Manila will be in the area that we call Global City, and yes it will be modern comfort food.

In one of your bios, it mentions that you enjoy online games and kickboxing when you're not in the kitchen.  What online games are you into at the moment? (food&travel blog, I know, but I like my games too)

It all started with Counter Strike… now I don’t play CS, but I still love the first person shooters like Modern Warfare 2.  When I have a rough day at work, I play a quick 1 hour and rack up the kills.  I also play Rising Force Online, it’s not as fast as MW2 but it’s fun when you have to team up and strategize on how you can win the battle.  But ya’ gaming helps give the escape from reality since I can’t always take a day off.  I don’t have time to rest my brain, but at least an hour of pure ownage can give you the energy to keep going…  That should be a slogan or something! Haha

Watch Chef Bruce Lim every Thursday 9:30pm
 Asian Food Channel
Tablescapes: Life on a Plate

"New Season on AFC: 18 March-4 June 2010.  Tablescapes returns to Asian Food Channel with a new season of this one-of-a-kind culinary and travel adventure programme.  

Journey with Chef Bruce Lim and the lovely Angel Aquino across the many and magically varied islands of the Philippines.  Indulge in gastronomical delights while basking in the gorgeous backdrops and get a view and taste of the Philippines like never before."

More on Salt and our Health

I visited The Spartan Diet's blog to ask Amira Elgan, co-creator of the The Spartan Diet ("The healthiest diet in history") to share her thoughts on the NYT article and about salt in our diet.  She explains healthy eating with salt:

Real salt (sea salt with trace minerals) is a healthy and necessary part of the human diet. 
The problems are that 1) most salt people eat isn't healthy salt; and 2) processed and prepared foods and restaurants foods radically over-salt things. 
Our advice is to never eat processed prepared foods, and eat at restaurants as little as possible. At home, salt things conservatively to taste, and you'll get about the right amount of salt. 
Endurance runners and other athletes need more, but that's a special case that we devote some attention to in our upcoming book. 
See here for a related post by The Spartan Diet on Processed Foods: The good, bad, and ugly.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is Salt the Enemy?

The latest fad in health paranoia: SALT.

As high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension and obesity among Americans are still on the rise, respected and powerful figures such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and First Lady Michelle Obama have made it known that they're on the anti-sodium bandwagon.  Many health advocates point to salt as a main culprit and there are cries to reclassify salt as a regulated food additive rather than leaving it as a harmless common kitchen ingredient.

But is salt the real enemy?  Used since ancient times as a way to preserve meat, salt has been around for centuries before problems like hypertension ever became a concern.  The F.D.A is looking to significantly decrease salt content in the products of giant processed food corporations such as PepsiCo, Kellogg, Campbell, Oscar Meyer and ConAgra.  Such regulations would evaporate a big chunk of sales, since salt is such a crucial element in processed foods.  Besides the products losing any palatable taste or texture, replacing salt with other alternatives would greatly increase food costs for the average consumer.

Personally, I'm willing to shell out the extra bucks for healthier processed foods and the food giants should be making a move in the direction of fresher, greener ingredients anyway, but I stand firm that salt shall remain in my diet (how could it not?).  The average American should be eating less and simply balancing out their diet beyond packaged goods.  As Gabriella Petrick (author of the forthcoming Industrializing Taste: Food Processing and the Transformation of the American Diet) once told me,
There might be some slight benefit [to organic food], but it's not an either or.  Ultimately those issues depends on what the individual puts inside of their body and the particular food choices they make.  Say there was an all organic McDonalds.  I could go to McDonalds and order all organic--that's not necessarily going to protect me from all of these dietary issues just because it's organic. (while the quote is about organic foods, context still applies. See this videoclip for some of her interesting insights.)   
All this finger pointing at sugar, fats, salts, still has yet to prove to be of any real merit.  Yes, they are linked to diseases, but all of these FDA ingredient-specific regulations are for naught as America grows fatter and unhealthier by the day.  I'm with ConAgra on this one:
ConAgra, whose brands include Chef Boyardee and Orville Redenbacher, made a different argument to the panel. It submitted a study it commissioned that asserted that far more savings in health care costs — about $58 billion — could be generated if people simply cut 100 calories from their daily diets than if they consumed less salt. (New York Times)
Salt is a wonderful and key component to great cuisine.  If you think the purpose of salt is to only make things saltier, think again!  Salt is also used in baked goods (bread will never be the same without it) and sweets as a way to balance or bring out flavors and can completely change the texture of food.   Just remember, as mommy always says, everything in moderation. 

See here for "The Hard Sell on Salt" (New York Times).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Joining Asian Food Channel's "Taste of the Philippines" [video]

I've never seen Mario Batali in person, but I imagine Chef Bruce Lim could take him on in a fist fight.  At first glance, Bruce Lim looks more like a bouncer at an elitist night club or maybe a professional lion wrestler.  But as the Californian native broke into a wide smile and busted out good-natured jokes, his intimidating size was quickly forgotten.

I assure you, I am not a tiny girl... but I am one when I'm next to Chef Bruce! ha! (in 4" heels too)

A few weeks ago, Gastronommy was invited to attend an Asian Food Channel (AFC) workshop, Taste of the Philippines starring Philippines TV chef, Bruce Lim.  I'll readily admit that my knowledge of Filipino cuisine was at a minimal before attending this demonstration.  I wasn't sure what to expect or where to start on the questions.  It turned out most of the other attendees were not familiar with filipino cuisine either (or maybe journalists in Singapore are too shy to speak up compared to us loud mouth Americans).

cool coasters at AFC Studio

My +1 for the day and my helpful assistant!

Filipino cuisine is relatively unknown in most parts of the world, but that's why Chef Bruce is here.  In addition to his TV series in the Philippines, he has plans to open his own Filipino restaurant in Manila.

Chef Bruce introduced three dishes:

Smoky Heart Banana Salad (delicately stewed heart shaped-buds and smoked fish)

Banana Leaf Wrapped Prawns (baked prawns with mung bean noodles)

Chicken Adobo with Aromatic Pandan Rice (stewed chicken with pandan infused rice)

The chicken adobo is the classic and the most recognized dish in the Philippines...and definitely my favorite of the three dishes he prepared for us that day.  Bruce told us about an earlier interview session, where Singaporeans cried, "That's just Hainanese chicken rice!"  I can see the similarities in the way the rice is cooked in chicken stock, but I must disagree about it actually being Hainanese chicken rice.  The chicken itself is also far more savoury and rich than the Singaporean version.  Neither respective chicken dishes is better than the other and each should be regarded as its own entity!

waiting for Chicken Adobo noms.  Front row seat, baby.

Crab Butter used for the banana salad.  Is it just me, or does "crab butter" sound simply amazing?

I'm going to share two of the three recipes that I really enjoyed:

Recipe: Banana Leaf Wrapped Prawns
Baked prawns and Mung bean noodles
serves 8

1 piece banana leaf (cut into 12" squares)
8 prawns (U-10 size)
3 cakes mung bean noodles (rehydrated)
Salt & Pepper to taste

60g Aligue
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 small onion sliced
1 inch ginger strips
1 tsp chili sauce
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup coconut cream
Salt & Pepper to taste

1.  To make sauce, add oil to small saucepot and saute garlic, onions and ginger for two minutes.
2.  Add aligue and saute for three minutes to ensure that it has cooked out.
3.  Add in the chili sauce and coconut cream.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Simmer for five minutes.
4.  Add salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and cool.
5.  To assemble, remove the shells from the prawns and leave the head attached.
6.  Lay one banana leaf down on a soup bowl, add a small handful of noodles in the center and 2 prawns on top of that.
7.  Season with salt and pepper then pour over 2tbsp of sauce and wrap.  Bring up the sides and squeeze the top so it looks like a gift tie with off cuts of banana leaf.*
8.  Once wrapped, bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Serve immediately.

*See video below for demonstration on how to fold the banana leaf into a parcel.

Recipe: Chicken Adobo and Fragrant Pandan Rice
stewed chicken and pandan infused rice
serves 8

500 g chicken legs
1/2 head garlic (chopped)
1/2 head onion (sliced)
1/3 cup vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water or beer
3 pcs bay leaves
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp black peppercorn, cracked
Sugar and salt to taste

1.  Add oil to medium-sized pot and saute onions and half the garlic until browned.
2.  Add the chicken legs and brown on all sides.
3.  Once the chicken is brown, add vinegar and simmer for 5-minutes.
4.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil.
5.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by half.

Gastronommy tip: don't stir in the vinegar.  Simply pour it in and let it cook out.  This way, it penetrates into the meat and the acidity becomes less harsh.  There's a significant difference in smell by using this process.  Lean in and inhale--you'll notice that it has a smooth scent instead of a rough acidity that chokes you.

3 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp chicken fat or lard
3 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 inch piece of ginger (sliced)
3 leaves pandan
4 cups chicken stock

1.  Remove pot from rice cooker and melt chicken fat.  Add the ginger and garlic and saute until golden brown.
2.  Remove garlic and ginger and add the rice, coating all the grains of rice with fat to ensure even cooking.
3.  Remove from heat and add the stock.  Give it a good mix and place the pandan leaves on top.
4.  Return to rice cooker and cook.
5.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

See here for the follow-up Q+A with Chef Bruce Lim.

edit: Backtracking a bit, I just realized that Bruce Lim also participated in the Moleskine Recipe Notebook exhibition!
See here for my March entry about this.
Otherwise click here to see the full list of participants.

Hong Kong Noms Series: Molecular Mixology (FINDS) [video]

Interview/tasting originally took place in March when I had to borrow a videocamera and was still using my cruddy old digital point&shoot camera for photos.  Sadly, after all this time, I still couldn't get the hour long video to convert properly with any of my software.  I've included a short video clip, but the audio isn't synced correctly, so the videos are limited to simple visual demonstrations of the cocktails.  Lesson: Never using my brother's HD Sony camera again.  What a serious pain in the butt, all for naught!

Full disclosure: This was a personal invitation for a private tasting--meaning I didn't have to pay and it is up to my discretion on if/how I choose to present it on my blog.  As always, I try to be as straightforward and fair as possible.


Gastronommy recommends:
Smoked Coke with Whiskey (HKD$90)
Earl Grey Caviar Martini (HKD$110)

[photo by Simon Ie]

Antonio Lai, the eccentric, lively bar manager at FINDS restaurant/bar (as in Finland Iceland Norway Denmark Sweden) has been popularizing the concept of "molecular mixology" in Hong Kong.  This past March, he invited me to taste and see some of his concoctions.

This is what greeted me on the table upon arrival:

I figured Antonio was particular about his dental hygiene and forgot his toothbrush out on the table during his break.  Turns out, the presentation was for me.  I was completely baffled when he sat there grinning, nudging me to brush my teeth.  I was hesitant and asked him at a minimum of 8 or 9 times, "I really... brush my teeth?"   It got to the point when he jokingly said he would turn around if it would make me feel more comfortable.

Good Morning

The "toothpaste" is edible and it tastes just like the real thing (whether or not that's a good thing is another matter).  Using molecular techniques, Antonio creates a minty vodka gel.  He claims it's "stronger than drinking alcohol.  It goes straight to your head." The toothpaste is just a fun edible experiment and he doesn't actually expect patrons to slurp it up by the tubes nor actually brush their teeth with it... Though it something to consider for the drinker's next day hangover.  Drink more to cure a hangover, right?


What does one do after brushing one's teeth?  "Have breakfast!" announces Antonio, as he brings me the next course.  Unfortunately, the vodka based mixed berry jam isn't usually available at FINDS, but Antonio wanted to personally demonstrate the variety that can be involved with alcohol, "I love to make people laugh with unexpected fun."  The jam is addicting.  As I go through the jam covered slices of toast, Antonio cautions me on taking it slow lest I get buzzed too soon!

*Gastronommy Favorite*: 
Smoked Coke with Whiskey
"BBQ Coca Cola"
Next up, Antonio returns to the table with a glass covered with a coaster, "Do you know what's inside?" he asked.  As he removed the coaster, smoke billows out of the glass.  Presenting, "a BBQ Coca Cola!"  Antonio uses a cold smoke method to flavor the soda with cherry wood.  His description of a BBQed Coke couldn't be more apt.  The smoky combo reminded me of just that.

He picks up a shot glass and asks me to smell it.  It's whiskey.  He pours it into the glass and asks me to try it again.  Now, I don't take whiskey very well, but it seems I do when its with smoked Coca Cola!  It's a fantastic mixed whiskey drink where "molecular" techniques are put to good use.
Antonio recommends using Macallan for its smoky flavor.

Dragon's Breath 
[video below]

Antonio escalates the chemistry factor with the Dragon's Breath.  He drags out a giant canister full of liquid nitrogen and pours the -196 degree substance onto a mixture of Frangelico, Kahlua and vanilla vodka.  Why is it called Dragon's Breath?  Take a look at the short clip:

It tastes like crunchy ice-cream.  I like it, though the fun is mostly in the cool "breath" more than anything else.  It's a bit too cold for comfortable edibleness.  There's actually a bit at the end of one of the video clips when he walks away and I cringe and turn towards the camera (not knowing it was still recording), "My tongue hurts... I'm not going to tell him that though."

*Gastronommy Favorite*:
 Earl Grey Caviar Martini
"Not that I want to get all the girls drunk, but they love this drink." -Antonio Lai

Antonio takes classic cocktails and uses molecular techniques to dabble on creative touches to each drink, while maintaining the original cocktail's flavor integrity.  FINDS' best selling drink is an elderflower cocktail.  The crisp sweet base is made up of elderflower, cucumber, lemon and vodka.  As for the Earl Grey, it's incorporated with a bit of molecular magic.

A calcium bath is used to form the small floating "caviar," and the cocktail is topped with Earl Grey foam.

I adore this drink.  Delicate "caviar" floats along the surface, a challenge Antonio has been working on so customers can actually get bits of the caviar while they drink it (instead of having it sink to the bottom).  The Earl Grey flavors are subtle in form of the foam and caviar-- the little pearls burst in my mouth like the real deal!  It's a well balanced cocktail and easy to understand why its a favorite amongst the ladies.
Chocolate Martini

[photo provided by Antonio Lai]

This Chocolate Martini is something else.  The martini makes of up three distinct layers from bottom up: chilly chocolate, hot chocolate, then topped with a milky froth.  As I sip on the cocktail, there are flashes of hot and cold, followed by a smoothing cream--the sensation is unique.  Talk about icy hot.

The texture products used were manufactured by el Bulli (basically a chemistry set) and is out of Antonio's own pocket--the passion drives him.  Still, he doesn't take for granted that FINDS has given him the freedom to create their entire cocktail menu and has the flexibility to change it up seasonally.

Antonio Lai was originally inspired by an Italian book on molecular mixology.  Despite the language barrier, the photos alone sparked a newfound passion for the Hong Kong native.  He began burying himself in research, looking up to the molecular gastronomist greats of el Bulli and Fat Duck.  "By understanding those gastronomy methods, I'm trying to adapt those techniques to a drink," he explains.

To be completely honest, Antonio is only using the bare basics of molecular techniques.  It's nothing WD-50 Chef Wiley would be scrambling over to see from New York.  However, Antonio preserves and focuses on the most important aspects of Epicurean indulgences : his creations are delicious, palatable and something that can be shared with friends.

"A cocktail is not just a cocktail to me anymore.  It's an art.  It has to look good, presentable and affordable.  I want everyone to be able to enjoy it, not just the high rollers."  His cocktails do indeed come at standard Lan Kwai Fong bar prices.

FINDS also offers a tasting menu that pairs some of their signature Scandinavian dishes with Antonio's cocktails (4-course HKD$688, 6-course HKD$988).

2/F LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2522 9318

Here's the Hong Kong Noms Series list so far:

#1 Cantonese Ham & Egg Sandwich (Australian Dairy Company)
#2 Peanut Butter & Jelly (TBLS)
#3 Organic Eggs, Potatoes & Chorizo (Fofo by el Willy)
#4 Truffled Mac & Cheese (RED SoHo)
#5 Chai Tow Kway (SH!OK)
#6 Earl Grey Caviar Martini (FINDS)
#7 ??? (hint: it's a very local Canto beverage... and it ain't Green tea Whiskey)
#8 ??? (hint: itadaki-masu!)

Gastronommy's Hong Kong Noms Series focuses on specific Gastronommy favorite dishes rather than the entire menu at particular restaurants.  My preference for a specific dish may not reflect my impression of the rest of the menu.  Also, my chosen numerical order of listing is not based on any ranking.  It just helps me keep track!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Pineberries Are Real

Last month, I wrote about a relatively unknown fruit: The Pineberry.  For those of you who were doubting their existence, my good friend Andrew Chen sent me emails about his pineberry experience in the UK.

April 22:
So I tried buying some but apparently each waitrose store gets 8 boxes at 8am each morning and they sell out within 30 minutes!  They are 4GBP [US$5.80] a box too.  Insane!
oh well.

April 25:
Got em!  

I went to waitrose again this morning and found the last box.  They taste like even more tart strawberries, but I agree the "finish" is like that of pineapple.  They are really tiny too, about the size of a raspberry/blackberry.  

I will have you know that if I hadn't read that one posting of yours, I probably wouldn't have felt so compelled to check them out.  [Thanks Andrew! :)  Surprise comments like these make me feel warm and fuzzy.]

For proof, here are the photos he sent me!  (posted with his permission)

Thanks for reporting from the UK, Andrew!

Technical Difficulties

Hello all.  Last week, I've made promises to post about my visit to the Asian Food Channel demo and a continuation of the Hong Kong Noms Series!  I've been having some difficulties with some technical work, so there have been some delays!  Hong Kong Noms #6 was supposed to be a video entry, but since I'm having problems with it, it's going back to its usual text/photo format.  I'll be salvaging whatever I can from the recordings and just insert in short relevant clips.  Look out for that this weekend.

Here's a list of Gastronommy's Hong Kong Noms Series so far:

#6 UPCOMING! (hint: molecular mixology)
#7 ??? (hint: it's a very local beverage to Hong Kong)

Gastronommy's Hong Kong Noms Series focuses on specific Gastronommy favorite dishes rather than the entire menu at particular restaurants.  My preference for a specific dish may not reflect my impression of the rest of the menu.  Also, my chosen numerical order of listing is not based on any ranking.  It just helps me keep track!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cookyn with Mervyn (video preview)

This past Sunday, my friends Leada and Regina invited me to a group cooking class here in Singapore: Cookyn with Mervyn.  Mervyn taught us tips, tricks and recipes for churroz, prawn cerviche, squid ink paella, chorizo & potatoes and red sangria.  SGD$90 for a full course meal with friends.  Not bad!

Responsible for this week's shooting is tech enthusiast Mike Foong.  He helmed the cameras this past Sunday and is now editing the upcoming Gastronommy vlog on Mervyn's kitchen.  You may have seen his past work with JuicynDelicious, when I joined them on one of their episodes on chili crab!  You can subscribe to Gastronommy's Youtube if you want to keep up to date on any future video uploads.  It's about time we get that channel moving.

[photo credits are a jumble between my own photos, Leada Li and Regina Tan]

But don't wait on a Gastronommy vlog before you decide if you should try out Cookyn with Mervyn.  Cookyn with Mervyn is very beginner friendly if you've never made anything beyond toast in your life.  Even for the seasoned cooks, it's a cozy kitchen and a wonderful way to spend time with friends or even make new ones.  Just to top it off, Mervyn's wife, Amanda has also got to be the nicest, most welcoming host I've met this year!

Check out Mervyn's website for the upcoming courses.  He spans across many different cuisines.  Upcoming are Italian and Japanese.

The follow up on this entry will include a video, recipes and more details about this past Sunday's session.

Cookyn with Mervyn
273 Thomson Road #04-01 Novena Gardens
(Lift Lobby B)
Singapore 307644

Tel: +65 9099 6231

edit:  See this link for the follow up!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gastronommy featured in Female Magazine

I was quite flattered to see myself this month's issue of FEMALE Magazine's feature section as a two page spread.  When I was originally interviewed, I expected a small little quarter page.. especially since I'm not even from Singapore.  Thanks Female! 

Hong Kong Noms Series: Chai Tow Kway (SH!OK)

Now back to Gastronommy's Hong Kong Noms Series!  As a reminder, the Hong Kong Noms Series focuses on specific Gastronommy favorite dishes rather than the entire menu at particular restaurants.  My preference for a specific dish may not reflect my impression of the rest of the menu.  Also, my chosen numerical order of listing is not based on any ranking.  It just helps me keep track!

edit/update June 2010: SH!OK is now closed.  That was a short run, eh.

Gastronommy Notable Dish:
Chai Tow Kway (HK$45)

Local Tips:
SHIOK is the Malaysian or Singapore slang to express pleasure, such as "great", "tasty" or "cool."
e.g. "Wah, this hokkien mee is damn shiok!" 
SAMBAL is a spicy chili based sauce popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.  Used as a condiment or for cooking in stir fry dishes.  Excellent with kangkong (river spinach), sting ray, eggs, squid and fried noodles.  There are different variations of sambals depending on the usage.
CHAI TOW KWAY: fried radish cake (also known as fried carrot cake, but despite the name there are no orange carrots in this dish)
MEE GORENG: Indonesian styled fried yellow noodles

I was particularly interested when I first heard about SH!OK a few months ago.  As many of you know, I have a certain soft spot for Singaporeans and an even softer spot for their cuisine.  Despite Hong Kong's close proximity to Singapore, I can still count the number of Singapore restaurants on less than two hands.  Even then, most of them consider themselves Malay cuisine or are South East Asian themed restaurants with a very broad and general menu.  Among these scarce choices, absolutely zero of them have stood up to the authentic Singaporean standard.

I soon found out about SH!OK on Peel Street, opened by the same owners of Bar of Soup on Staunton Street (now closed).  I remember when I first found the newly opened Bar of Soup two years ago.  In the quiet empty white restaurant, I heard the owners speaking to one another and I couldn't help but immediately pick up on the familiar distinctive accent.  It turned out owner and cook, David Yip had set up fresh from Singapore, stirring up healthy soups without the use of MSG and minimal use of sodium.  

David Yip, the chef with Indonesian Chinese and Singaporean roots, brought the same healthy standard to SH!OK.  Eager to see if Hong Kong finally had a decent Singaporean joint all its own, I squeezed SH!OK into my eating schedule asap.

The lime green exteriors and bright pink signage of SH!OK are more reminiscent of a tacky teenage accessories shop than a restaurant.  Upon entering, it was apparent that they didn't relax on the interior either.  It suddenly felt like Easter with all the bright pastels on the walls, furniture and cutlery.  That's certainly one way to catch attention on the otherwise quiet corner of Peel Street!  Inexplicably, I didn't really mind the bright colors at all.

"wahbiang! What kind of prices are these?"

What surprised me even more than the bright green walls was the menu.  It provided almost every popular Singaporean, Peranakan and Teochew dish.  I grew wary... Even in Singapore, there are rare (if any) spots that try to cover everything from A-Z.  Most Singaporean food stalls or restaurants specialize in just a few select dishes and focus on doing those dishes as best they can.

In tow with me on my March 6th dinner visit was my Singaporean pal, Trina.  While we both have sinfully enormous appetites, there was no way we could cover even 1/10 of the menu fairly.  Not to mention that we were shaking our heads at the inflated prices compared to what were used to in Singapore (but this was later justified by the huge portions per order).

Cons: The service needed a bit of work when I was there nearly 2 mths ago.  It was as if our waiter had never served at all in his life before.  He originally placed us at a tiny table in a tight corner when the restaurant was completely empty.  Our waiter... and the other waiter he kept referring our questions to, were unable to answer basic questions without forming some telephone relay to the management somewhere in the back.  To top it off, much of what we originally wanted on the menu wasn't available.  Sadly, the separate daily rotating menu of some of my favorite items such as laksa, hokkien mee, prawn mee or even char kway teow weren't available at all (I'm a noodle fan, in case you haven't noticed); and we weren't in the mood to get messy with chili crab.  But Trina and I, both deeply involved in the F&B industry world, were very forgiving and chalked it up to settling in new staff at a brand new restaurant in a foreign town.  We narrowed our selections to three dishes: Sambal Okra, Chai Tow Kway and Mee Goreng.

Brief look at these two dishes: The sambal okra was done well, though I personally could done with a bit more of the homemade sambal chili ontop! mmm!  The mee goreng was tasty, but if I were to compare it to my favorites in Singapore and Malaysia, SH!OK's wouldn't stand a chance.  Then again, there's absolutely no MSG... and to be frank, that bit of MSG does wonders at those little stalls down south (clearly, I'm not a health freak).

The NOMS: Chai Tow Kway

The chai tow kway ended up being the highlight of our dinner.  The fried radish cake came out in sweet & salty soft doughy bites and there was plenty of crisp fried onion to keep me happy.  David Yip has his radishes stewed for hours then steams it for a bit more, followed by wok frying... resulting in a ultra tender cake.  I was used to having my chai tow kway being a bit more crispy and hard around the edges at the local hawker stalls in Singapore, but I prefer it Mr. Yip's way! -- Despite being fried, SH!OK's chai tow kway was lighter and cleaner in taste than the usual heavily greased up variations in Singapore.

Based on this small sampling alone, I'm glad there seems to be a decent Singaporean restaurant in Hong Kong now.  I hope this builds momentum to the point where HKers will be confident in demanding many more and only the best of the best Singaporean cuisine.


I actually visited on March 6 this year, but haven't gotten around to writing about the restaurant until now, as you can see.  I've been meaning to make at least one or two more visits before making a post about it, but it so happens that I'm stuck in Singapore for yet another month.  So in the meantime, I wanted to give a nod in SH!OK's direction.  I look forward to returning again in June for round 2 and for another Gastronommy entry on their other dishes.  And this time, I'll have a much better camera in hand instead of my old camera or iPhone photos!  (Was gifted with a CanonS90 from my dear Adrian Mah! xx)

SH!OK Singapore Kitchen + Bar
66 Peel Street, Soho
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2899 2001


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