Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Adventures of Tofu

I was still hungry a few hours after dinner, so in true Singaporean fashion, I went for supper at a small hawker centre down the block from my home.  I brought my little white maltese for the walk, mentally mapping out the longer route that would pass as few tables as possible (as to not offend anyone who didn't want to have a dog near them while they ate).

There was a different lady handling my favorite duck noodle stall than usual.  As I arrived, her expression perked up immediately into a smile at the sight of Tofu trotting in -- Tofu who looked more like a mongrel at this point, because of the rain.  ...Guess I didn't need to tabao my food back!  When I picked a table closer to the road, she even pulled up a chair and insisted that Mr. Tofu sit right besides me.  At first, I thought I was having a lost in translation moment, or she was kidding...

Nope.  She was thrilled to have him sitting there right besides me.

I suddenly felt very self-conscious as I felt the eyes of the aunties and uncles at the surrounding tables on me.  I didn't dare look at their expressions in case there were any of disapproval (the stall auntie really REALLY wanted Tofu on the chair).

A little Singaporean girl, not more than 5 or 6 years old, straight cut bangs and shoulder length hair waddled up to us (the stall auntie at this point simply stopped doing her job and just pulled up a chair next to Tofu).  She seemed to be family with the folks running the stall, and very comfortable around dogs.  She flinched, but didn't look scared when Tofu got a little cocky and decided to let out a loud RO-RO! at her in excitement.

She spoke to me in Chinese eventually, and I looked back with complete embarrassment at this adorable doe-eyed girl in this pink Angry Birds t-shirt, replying, "I...  um... don't... I uh don't really speak Chinese."  I more or less mumbled it under my breath, thinking there's no way she speaks much English anyway.  She blinked for a moment, then in perfect English (with the Singaporean twang of course) repeats herself, "I have a dog too!  But she's not as nice as this dog."

I don't really know what I was thinking, by assuming she didn't speak English just because she was somebody's daughter or niece at the hawker stall... and well, she was also this tiny little thing, so I wasn't sure how much she could speak at all.  Either way, I felt somewhat ashamed again for making what some might call small-minded assumptions.  (In all fairness, I was at a friend's son's 1st Birthday party with tons of other little toddlers today, so I'm all confused about how much a kid should be able to speak at what age)

Tofu ended up getting spoiled to bits.  The auntie and the little girl with the big eyes fed him a good amount of charsiu slices.  The little girl told me her name, but I couldn't quite catch it--sounded like Israel?--and sweetly asked if she could hold Tofu's leash.

It was pouring rain at this point.  She and Tofu pranced around the white plastic tables and the oddly colored stools under the shelter of the hawker centre, stopping only to introduce herself and Mr. Tofu to the patrons who belonged to a much older generation.  Meanwhile, I sipped on my barley drink then finally finished up the rest of my duck noodles in peace. 

When the rain let up,  it was finally time for us to go.  She handed me the leash and gently kissed him on the head goodbye. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Not a Tourist....

Here is the video from our event launch:
 Recognize the voice?

For a photoshoot by Danny Santos, we had to complete the sentence: "I'm not a tourist, because...".  Ultimately, our team decided to go with the following quote:

Unfortunately, with the recent announcement about increased taxi surcharges, I'm not sure how relevant my quote is anymore.

So, let me share some of the other reasons that I listed for the shoot a few months ago:

I'm Not A Tourist, because...

... I know the difference between la, lor, leh... and the difference between ACS and Raffles.
... I know there is more to Singaporean food than chilli crab and chicken rice.  Give me rojak, mee rebus and chwee kueh!  River Valley is not the only place for makan.  (and I chope seats with tissue packet, though admittedly I always get a sense of disbelief that no one steals or ignores it)
... I know that 'steady pom pee pee' has nothing to do with how well you aim at the urinal.
... watching folks put ice in their beer doesn't phase me...
but doesn't mean I like it.
... I know my local celebrities.  And I know how to pronounce the names of Singapore's politicians correctly (it's Nah-than, not Nay-than!).
... I get (and love) the jokes on The Noose.
 ... I can order teh, teh bing, teh c or teh o without batting an eyelash.  Whether or not the stall auntie understands my bad accent is another matter.
... I know the phrase 'yum seng' will probably leave me voiceless the next day.
... I would feel weird calling a taxi driver anything other than 'uncle'.
... I'm a Velvet/Zouk member.  I know what it means when folks talk about the revered 'Doctor' from the prime Mambo Jambo days.

So how's that for you?  Or still cannot make it?

See original post here at my profile.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A restaurateur's personal menu [by André Terrail, guest contributor]

Throughout many interviews with all sorts of personalities, I've discovered that the seemingly harmless question, "What would your last meal on earth be?" can reveal so much more to a person's character, history and desires than the query let's on.

I've recently had the pleasure of getting to know and eventually interviewing André Terrail, the third generation owner of the famed La Tour D'Argent in Paris and Tokyo.  Our video interview with the gentleman is currently being edited, so look out for the final piece next week.  In the meantime, it's my pleasure to present him as today's guest contributor.

Upcoming video interview:
Victoria Cheng, Gastronommy & André Terrail, La Tour D'Argent Paris

André contributes a piece answering the question, "What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country?" It's been said that the young 31-year old can be a bit guarded when you first meet him (more on that in later articles), but I've learned that when it comes to his passions, you'll see Mr. Terrail's dark eyes grow wide with expression as he comes to life, sincere and full of excitement.  And here, through this narrative about his ideal menu, he somewhat unwittingly reveals the elegance of his palate, his adoration for France, a penchant for romantic tradition, and perhaps even a little more.

Here is his piece, with the original French text below.  If you are a gastronome, you may find yourself wishing you could be hosted by the man himself after this - he does have a natural grace for hospitality after all.  Rest assured, you can have the experience at his restaurant in Paris.

- Victoria, Gastronommy

Introducing France
by André Terrail

France is a land of plenty, so being a restaurant owner, there lies a happiness in this country that I cannot find anywhere else. Throughout the year, the diversity of the climate, the good earth and the seas enable exceptional artisans--from the cooks to the sommeliers-- proffer everything to delight us. In France, the cuisine follows the seasons.  And if you’re in luck, it is June, the month of bounty.  So, as a preamble to your new home, over the course of a meal this summer, come with me to discover the land of fine food and wine.

While the sun sets later in the evening, I suggest, over cocktails, some cockles and clams straight from the north, the coast of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, lightly sautéed in butter and dusted with parsley -- to be eaten with your fingers, for etiquette must bow to hedonism. To rouse our taste buds, let us seek out a light champagne, not too saccharine, a blanc de blancs, the 2000 vintage from the house of Selosse, a fine and confidential establishment.

For the appetizer, a half lobster is the perfect choice, the blue lobster of Brittany, of course!  And since a fine product must be exalted, keep it simple -- grilled over a wood fire, basted with a little olive oil and served with a few wild golden chanterelle mushrooms.  Voilà, you’ll find a savoury harmony of aromas, bringing together notes of the sea with the underbrush of the forest. Together with this beautiful crustacean, I will serve a Chassagne-Montrachet, a white Burgundy, from the House of Jadot, and, let us indulge, a 1996.

For the main course there is Challans duckling from Western France, whose protected designation of origin guarantees an extraordinary quality. It will be magnificent with cherries and Darphin potatoes, sautéed then baked with butter. To accompany this dish, let us head to the Atlantic coast to choose a fine Bordeaux. A Cheval Blanc 2000, for example, will transport us to paradise. 

For dessert, allow me to suggest a mille-feuille of wild strawberries served with whipped cream as light as a cloud. For the wine, let us wind up our small tour of France with an Alsace Gewurztraminer from Zind Humbrecht, a noble family establishment. The wine has a touch of sweetness, and I assure you, a 2005 vintage will not disappoint.

And so there you have a very pleasant dinner, but no matter the quality of the dishes and the wine, nothing counts more than the conviviality amongst your guests, for in France life revolves around the table.

In French (original):
La France est un pays de cocagne, le restaurateur que je suis y trouve son bonheur comme nulle part ailleurs. La diversité des climats, des terres et des mers permettent à des artisans exceptionnels de fournir toute l’année au cuisinier et au sommelier de quoi nous enchanter. En France la cuisine suit la saison et vous avez de la chance, nous sommes en juin, le mois de l’abondance. Alors, en guise de préambule à votre établissement et sur le thème d’un repas, découvrez avec moi le pays de la gourmandise.

Alors que le soleil se couche tard je vous propose en guise d’apéritif quelques coques et palourdes des côtes du Nord-Pas-de-Calais, juste revenues au beurre et saupoudrées de persil, à manger avec les doigts car l’étiquette doit plier devant l’hédonisme. Pour éveiller nos papilles, cherchons un champagne léger, peu dosé, un blanc de blancs, millésime 2000 de chez Selosse, une jolie maison confidentielle.

En entrée un demi-homard sera parfait, bleu de Bretagne bien sûre ! Et puisqu’un bon produit doit surtout être sublimé, restons simple - grillé au feu de bois, arrosé d’un peu d’huile d’olive et accompagné de quelques girolles  - voilà une belle concentration d’arômes, mariant pleine-mer et sous-bois… Je servirai avec ce bel homme un Chassagne-Montrachet, vin blanc de Bourgogne, de la maison Jadot et de 96 soyons fous !

Comme plat, un caneton de Challans, appellation contrôlée de l’Ouest de la France qui garantit un produit hors normes. Avec des cerises et des pommes Darphin au beurre ce sera magnifique. Pour l’accompagner rejoignons la côte Atlantique et choisissons un beau Bordeaux, un Cheval Blanc 2000 par exemple nous amènera au paradis.

En dessert je vous suggère un mille-feuille aux fraises des bois, avec une crème fouettée légère comme un nuage. Comme vin terminons notre petit tour de France  avec un Gewurztraminer d’Alsace de chez Zind Humbrecht, noble maison familiale. C’est un vin légèrement sucré, sur un millésime comme 2005 vous ne serez pas déçus. 

Voilà un bien sympathique dîner, mais quelqu’en soit la qualité des mets et des vins, rien ne sera aussi important que vos convives, car en France c’est à table que l’on vit.

- André Terrail

La Tour D'Argent
15, quai de la Tournelle
75005 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 54 23 31

Friday, December 2, 2011

J'ai un paquet... from Feiyue!

A few weeks ago, I was surprised with an adorable French-themed delivery from Feiyue.

 Handwritten to each of us by Pat Law
also a good sign that beautiful penmenship is not dead.

It included all sorts of goodies, including buttons, macarons, chocolate biscuits, pink lemonade, and of course... a pair of new kicks.  Feiyue, meaning "flying forward", comes from an interesting history originating in Shanghai - if I'm not mistaken, the shoes were popular amongst martial artists for their flexible and light material (think retro kung-fu movies)... This bit was of personal interest to me, given my 12+ years of dedication to martial arts. 

The lightweight canvas shoe evolved over time since its early days in 1920s China, taking on influences from the hip bits of today's French street fashion.

Celebrating the values of freedom and innovation, Feiyue is looking for more "Custodians of Freedom" to hand deliver more of these vintage-esque packages to.  To nominate yourself or a friend, visit the Feiyue Facebook page, Asia.

Photo from Zouk Singapore
Thanks Feiyue!  I'll be uploading my Feiyue x Zouk 20/20 Sneaker Launch event photos up on my Gastronommy Facebook page later on.

Victoria xoxo

Friday, November 25, 2011

An intro to Chwee Kueh, with tips from cookbook author, Wee Eng Hwa

Besides the well known chilli crab, chicken rice and hokkien mee, there are multitudes of lesser known dishes that tourists and non-tourists alike might not be aware of when they first arrive on Singapore’s shores.  Let's first begin with a quick introduction to the delight that is chwee kueh.

I consulted Ms. Wee Eng Hwa, author of the cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President on her advice about chwee kueh.  Having personally tried her homemade chwee kueh, there was no doubt that the vivacious food-enthusiast was the go-to for tips on this dish.

Photo from Wee Eng Hwa's cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President.

Chwee kueh, a steamed rice “water” cake, is of Hokkien origin and a favourite amongst Chinese Singaporeans. Usually eaten at breakfast or as a light snack, the simple dish is available at hawker centres or can be easily made at home.  Wee Eng Hwa tells us about her childhood experiences. “I have happy vivid memories of eating piping-hot fragrant chwee kueh served on a rectangular piece of opeh (a beige-coloured parchment) and using a lidi (a stick of brown dried rib of the palm leaf) like a fork. It was sold by itinerant hawkers or at wet market foodstalls,” she recalls.

Her cookbook predominantly comprise Nonya recipes, but she includes chwee kueh to help document and preserve the traditional recipe--because she has found that chwee kueh at foodstalls have changed overtime and now differ in taste and texture from that of a generation ago.

“A good chwee kueh is slightly salted, essential to bring out the taste of the rice flour. The texture is neither firm nor stodgy, but light and supple with some body and tension. It is a question of balancing the “chwee” and the “kueh” elements,” she explains.  And not forgetting the other most important element to chwee kueh, “The savoury topping – chai por - must be aromatic and nicely brown, yet tender with bite, not an indistinguishable dark mess. It may be topped with a little chilli sauce. In the old days, the chilli sauce served was smooth and slightly sweet and sour. Our family likes to spice the cake with a little finely chopped dried red chillies fried in oil.”

The chwee kueh she makes is indeed supple and savoury, so we ask her for some technique tips that make all the difference between in an average versus a good one.  “Speed is of the essence,” she advises, “All the elements making the cakes must be very hot. The hot flour mixture must be poured into the hot moulds as soon as the lid of the hot wok is opened. Once the mixture in the moulds is cooked, turn off the fire and leave the moulds in the open wok to cool completely and set before attempting to serve the cakes.”

Wee Eng Hwa encourages everyone to try their hand at making it, and not to forget that practice makes perfect.  Here is her family chwee kueh recipe from her cookbook, Cooking for the President below.  Let us know if you try this recipe!


CHWEE KUEH, Steamed Rice “Water” Cakes
Recipe from Wee Eng Hwa's cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President. Reproduced with her kind permission.

The success of this popular Hokkien breakfast food depends on the texture of the steamed rice cake and the texture and aroma of the toppings. The cake is soft, light and supple with body, not sticky or stodgy. The neutral-tasting cake is made appetising by the aromatic fried chai por (preserved Chinese white radish) which is tender with bite and also by the fried dried red chillies.
(makes 20)

240ml oil
50g garlic, peel and chop 2mm bits
150g chai por (preserved Chinese white radish), chop 3mm bits and soak 5 minutes
160ml water
20g dried red chillies, soften in hot water and chop 2mm bits
½ tsp salt

Mixture A
200g rice flour
40g tapioca flour
480ml water

Mixture B
480ml boiling water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
20 chwee kueh metal cups

1.  Fry the chai por. Fry the garlic in 120ml hot oil in a wok over medium-low heat few seconds. Add the chai por and fry until light brown and aromatic. Add the water and simmer over low heat until tender and almost dry, medium brown and intensely aromatic. Do not over-fry to avoid the chai por becoming tough and garlic becoming bitter. Set aside the fried chai por in its oil.

Fry the dried chillies in 120ml hot oil in a wok with the salt over medium-low to low heat until darker red and aromatic. Set aside the fried chillies in the oil.

2.  Make the rice cakes. Steam the chwee kueh cups very hot in a covered wok. Mix Mixture A ingredients and strain into a saucepan. Boil Mixture B ingredients in another saucepan. Add hot Mixture B to Mixture A. Stir quickly to mix well. Uncover the wok and quickly fill the hot cups up to just below the rim. Wipe dry the inner surface of the lid and cover the wok. Steam 15 minutes over medium-low heat until cooked. Cool to set.

3.  Assemble to serve. Re-steam the cakes. Take a cup from the steamer, run a slender spatula along the inside, lift and slide the cake onto a serving plate. Top the cake with 1 teaspoon fried chai por (which may be heated if desired) and ½ teaspoon fried chillies if desired.

4.  Serve the cake hot or at room temperature as a snack. It is particularly suitable for breakfast, but can be served at tea time.

Article was written for  
Find the link here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't miss the Flood Flashmob (Bangkok)

I have a lot of family in Bangkok, including my mother, grandmother, brother and his wife's family.  Everyone is safe from the floods thankfully, but my brother and my sister-in-law were forced to evacuate from their home since the water in the area is about 1 metre high.

Athalie, my sister-in-law is organising a Flood Flashmob TODAY in order to help raise awareness about the situation in Thailand.  They will send the end result to the 11/11/11 project, to be included in a documentary next year.  Please see the information below if you want to participate.

She's a talented musician and strung together a simple tune in both English and Thai, to be sung later today.  See the youtube links below.

FRIDAY 11/11/11
4:30pm (Bangkok)
Be part of a huge awareness flashmob to help Thailand flood relief!

Every drop of donated blood…
Every drop of drinking water…
Every drop of sweat when you are helping to rebuild…
Every drop counts!

On Friday 11/11/11, we will meet at Big C at Saphan Khwai BTS Station, 16:30 to sing a message and spread it to the world. We will practice together first and then walk to Mo Chit (flooded area) to record a video of our message!

In the youtube attachment, you will find a rough draft version of our motto. We will sing this mantra together and ad some new lines and rhythms of our own! So start thinking about the message you want to add to this existing chorus, and bring any percussion insruments you may have. The event will be in THAI and ENGLISH, we will have translation for everything.

After our meeting, I will compile the material into a video and send it to the 11/11/11 Project. This will help the message spread faster and further. People of all backgrounds, all beliefs, and all levels of experience—with pure intention, let’s promote clean blood and clean drinking water for our country. Let’s put our hands and voices together to help Thailand! Every drop counts if it’s clean!!

If you have any questions, CALL 086-1251434 (English) or 087-9207711 (Thai).

1. Yourself and as many friends as possible!!
2. Boots/water resistant shoes
3. Percussion instruments – shakers, drums, bamboo sticks
4. A fat marker pen


Flash Mob ร่วมใจน้ำท่วม - ทุกหยดมีคุณค่า ถ้าบริสุทธิ์

หยดเลือด ทุกหยดที่ให้
หยดน้ำ ทุกหยดที่ดื่ม
หยาดเหงื่อ ทุกหยดที่ร่วมช่วยกัน
... ... ทุกหยดมีคุณค่า

เราอยากเห็นกลุ่มคน กลุ่มเล็กๆ มารวมกัน ( ประมาณ 25 คน ) เพื่อรณรงค์และระดมทุนช่วยเหลือวิกฤตินำ้ท่วมให้คนทั่วโลก รับรู้ โดยการร้องเพลง ในบริเวณใกล้ใกล้ ที่น้ำท่วม (ระดับครึ่งขา ถึงเข่า ) ในวันที่ 11/11/11 เจอกันที่ Big C สะพานควาย ตอน 16.30

เราจะฝึกซ้อมด้วยกันก่อน สั้นๆ ก่อนเดินไปร้องจริง ในที่บริเวณที่มีน้ำท่วม ดูตัวอย่างได้ในลิงค์ you tube
เพื่อนๆทุกคนสามารถนำอุปกรณ์ เครื่องดนตรีชิ้นเล็ก เครื่องเขย่าไปร่วมแจมได้ เราจะร้องทั้งภาษาไทยและอังกฤษ โดยจะมีการแปลทุกข้อความที่ร้อง
หลังจากนั้น เราจะนำวีดีโอมาตัดต่อและเรียบเรียง เพื่อส่งไปยัง 11/11/11 Project เพื่อส่งต่อข้อความของพวกเราให้ไปได้ไกลขึ้น เร็วขึ้น และง่ายขึ้น มาช่วยกันส่งเสริมและรณรงค์ให้บริจาค นำ้สะอาด และเลือดที่บริสุทธ์ ให้กับประเทศไทยของเรา

สนใจ หรือ มีคำถาม ติดต่อ 087 920 7711

1. ตัวคุณและชวนเพื่อนมาด้วยให้มากที่สุดเท่าจะบอกต่อได้
2. ร้องเท้าบูทระดับเข่า หรือ กางเกงกันน้ำถ้ามี ถ้าไม่มีหาซื้อได้ที่ Big C
3. เครื่องดนตรี เครื่องเขย่า
4. ปากกาเมจิก หัวใหญ่ ถ้าไม่มีเราจะเตรียมไว้ให้

Friday, November 4, 2011

My First Restaurant Guide in print

I spent the last few months at Appetite magazine dishing together Appetite's Guide to European Restaurants 2012.  It's just a guide/directory, along with great editorial pieces by Appetite writers, Edipresse editors and freelance writers.  So, while it isn't a big deal to some, it's still my first guide as a project editor.

...and it makes me happy to finally see it in print! (Don't rain on my parade, yo)
This little guy took many long hours.  I was lucky to have the help of Appetite's editor, deputy editor and online editor's help - especially during those really late nights before production.

I believe it's being sold along with November issue of Appetite magazine (2 for 1!), otherwise you can buy it individually off of bookshelves.  Let me know if you come across a copy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Singapore Writer's Festival

Literary Meals
October 22 - October 29 2011

Get up close and personal with great authors over a meal at The Arts House.  The author line-up includes Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A (adapted to become film Slumdog Millionaire); philosopher Julian Baggini; English poet Sir Andrew Motion; contemporary Chinese author Yang Lian; and Cheryl Tan, Singaporean writer in the US who penned food memoir, A Tiger in the Kitchen.

The entire Singapore Writer's Festival is happening between 22 - 30 October; this Literary Meals is just a small component of it.  The festival will feature over 120 writers in various events and activities, including panel discussions, readings, meet the author sessions and book launches.  Also check out the musical performances and art installations happening too. 

Tickets available at

Friday, September 30, 2011

Easy-Sunday breads with Singapore's best baker

Learning sourdough from the guy who makes the best sourdough in Singapore.

How our kitchen looked halfway through.

Unrelated to work, I made my first croissant back in January.  I was fortunate to have one of the best teachers in Singapore: Les Amis' pastry chef, Daniel Texter.  His most recent stint prior to Singapore was as the pastry chef in Copenhagen at the world's #1 restaurant, Noma.  It was during his time there when renowned Vogue food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten wrote praises of his bread baking.  And here I am, fortunate to learn tips and tricks personally from my blue-eyed German friend on sourdough, baguette, croissant, ciabatta, grissini and pretzels.

...Ich liebe pretzels with all my heart.  I was elated to be making them.  But first...

That whole sheet is pure, unadulterated butter. Nom.

Croissants are no easy task, especially if made from scratch and rolled out by hand.  I'll have to admit that out of everything we made that easy-Sunday afternoon, the croissants turned out miserably (probably my fault).  I mean, I personally thought they were still edible, but Mister High-Standards Chef thought they were a disgrace and just threw them out straight from the oven.

Layers of butter mean layers of fluffy, flaky croissants. 

A tomb of butter and more butter.

Rolling it out is tough work. The butter and the dough need to remain cold, and you have to be careful not to crack the butter as you fold and roll it out some more.  My feeble attempts at rolling out the croissant was so pathetic, Daniel had to take over (me = worst pastry assistant ever).

If you're wondering how these little chodes become beautiful croissants... they don't. We messed up a bit.

Croissant, most often recognized as THE classic French pastry around the world, actually has Islamic origins - hence the crescent shape of the final product. Also note, that while I referred to croissant as a pastry here, it is actually categorized as a viennoiserie.

Deformed pretzels are mostly mine.  Mostly.
We were in the kitchen for hours, resulting in enough bread to feed this year's batch of NS/army guys.  When I was readying the sourdough for proofing, I remember Daniel telling me to stop flouring the surface neatly. He'd scold, "Stop sprinkling like a housewife!"  In the anti-Nigella Lawson demonstration, he showed how the pros do it... He flicked an unrestrained handful of flour across the surface, letting it tumble across the surface in an elegant wave of white.
Well, damn.

This baking session actually happened way back in January.  Later on for Appetite magazine's July issue, I wrote an extensive feature on French breads (baguettes in particular).  Though unrelated, much of my article was inspired by this fun Sunday session at Les Amis!  Thanks Daniel!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ChunkFest 2011 [Giveaway]

I'm a Ben & Jerry's Moolet.  That basically means they fatten me up as a B&J ambassador and give me cool swag on the side to distract me.  I have a soft spot for the brand, seeing how the founders are from my home state.  Heck, they're also from Long Island too! (It was founded in Vermont, but the boys are originally from New York)

I remember the first time I ever tried Ben & Jerry's.  I was a freshman in high school over summer holidays... I was in marching band (...shut up), so our practices started before the normal school months in preparation for the Fall season.  We were taking a break at a nearby 7-Eleven, when a fellow band member pointed out Phish Food in the fridge.  I remember being completely weirded out by the name, and doubly skeptical of how palatable it could be ... Long story short, after trying it for the first time, Phish Food became my favorite and is still my favorite flavor to this day.  Gooey marshmellow swirls and crunchy chocolate chunks... uuuurglenomnomnom.

As some of you know, Ben & Jerry's Singapore has some pretty cool limited edition iPhone covers they create annually.  For any of you who have seen me on my phone, you will surely have seen my iPhone cover with the flying cow (except Phil Wu, who cannot see cows).

Ben & Jerry's has just released three different new iPhone4 covers to honor one of B&J's (and my) all time favorite flavors: Phish Food.

You can win one of the three from me, plus any pint of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream of your choice.
All you have to do is leave a comment under this post telling me what your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's is and how you like to eat it (in a cone, in a cup, with French fries... etc).  Three winners will be chosen on 31 October.  I've only posted one of the covers here.  The other two are a surprise. (Singapore only, include your email or FB so I can get in touch)

If you want to guarantee yourself or a friend one of these babies, here is another way you can get your own limited edition cover:

Starting from now till 31 October 2011, Ben & Jerry's lovers can obtain their own Phish Food iPhone 4 jackets by following these instructions:

1. Buy two Ben & Jerry’s pints (one of which must be Phish Food)
2. Exchange the original receipt at any Ben & Jerry’s Singapore scoop shop to redeem the phone jackets. Customers are free to select a design while stocks last
3. Upon redemption, customers also get to purchase a limited edition Phish Food Sundae at $10 (usual price $12.50)

If you are a die-hard ice-cream fan, you'll be happy to know that there are actually festivals encouraging your frozen dairy obsession.  Visit for more information.  Coming up soon:

15 October 2011
2pm - 10pm
Promontory @ Marina Bay

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baikohken Ramen Restaurant (Singapore)

Founded in the late 1960s, Baikohken is a restaurant originally from Asahikawa in Hokkaido, with its Singapore branch being its first overseas outlet in 2008. This was one of the last stops on our long ramen expedition, so expectations would be unforgiving. Baikohken is unexpectedly located on North Canal Road, a road otherwise filled with bars and local Chinese shops. With all of the outdoor and indoor seating occupied upon our arrival, we were promptly led to their second floor—it is a modest space with simple stools and tables, and dated visit-Japan posters on blank walls, akin to those you might find at a travel agency office. We saw a dumbwaiter in use and that noodles were served on plastic pushcarts, reminding us of the old school dim sum days.

The menu is simple. You first begin with three options: butter and corn, charsiew, or vegetables. From there, you select a shoyu, miso or shio based broth. There are also half-size options for all of the above and standard the side options like gyoza, rice or extra toppings. To cover all the bases, we opted for a charsiew shoyu ramen, butter and corn shio ramen and a vegetable miso ramen. The waitress asked us at least twice if we were sure we wanted the normal portion—was she doubting our eating prowess? Bring on the normal sized portions!

We certainly overestimated ourselves, because a normal portion was nearly twice the size of any other ramen-ya. The ramen was Asahikawa style for the most part, a blend of chicken, pork bone and fish dashi (usually shoyu based) and filled with curly, toothsome ramen noodles. The charsiew in the shoyu ramen were generously large thin slices, and delightfully rich and tender to the bite. The ajitama (flavoured egg) had to be ordered separately per dish, but the restaurant served each egg whole. Singaporeans tend to be as fond of eggs as the Japanese, so it was good news getting a whole egg each rather than just half—especially as we found out how pliant and soft the egg was, each filled with a deep orange oozy yolk.

It was a close match comparing the shoyu and shio ramen as our favourite of the three. Given Hokkaido’s colder climate, their ramen tend to be heavier, richer and infinitely saltier in Japan. A pat of butter in the ramen is used as a way to contain the heat within the broth in Hokkaido, though we are equally grateful for its presence just the same in our tropical Singapore. The density of the butter lent a lovely sumptuousness to the light shio broth. All three broths otherwise seemed to be lighter handed on the oil to suit the climate and palates of Singapore.

Please note that ordering the ‘vegetable’ does not mean that it is a vegetarian dish. Besides the gargantuan pile of cabbages and large, beautiful fresh negi slices (scallion), the dish also comes with minced pork. The noodles are springy, with each little curl capturing droplets of the broth just right. We admittedly could not finish all three bowls that afternoon due to sheer size, but nonetheless wish we could have. Every bite left us well satisfied; if any faith in the Singapore ramen scene had been lost during our journey, it was certainly renewed after our weekday visit to Baikohken.

Baikohken Ramen Restaurant

7 North Canal Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6534-3808

 (This review was based after only 1 visit, published in Appetite Magazine September 2011)

Monday, July 18, 2011

No respect, no love, no thanks for the service industry

Both the customers and the industry in Singapore need to change their mentality towards the women and men who wait our dining tables.  Tets’ take on the service industry in Singapore:

“A waiter is not a servant, but a highly trained individual with a special skill.  If you think about it, the service staff are the ones who make us chefs look good, through flawless presentation of our food.  It is not just about getting people to respect our waitstaff, but also about giving due credit to the profession and attracting more good people who want to stay in this line.” – Tetsuya Wakuda, Chef-owner of Tetsuya (Australia) and Waku-Ghin (Singapore)

Myself, Josephine and Tets
While the kitchens in Singapore are ever growing and evolving to match international standards, the service industry is struggling to keep up.  Singaporeans don't want to get into hospitality because they think they're above it, yet get touchy about restaurants wanting to hire only foreigners (restaurants can only hire a maximum of 50% foreigners anyway, due to government employment restrictions to appease whiny Singaporeans).  Restaurants struggle to even find willing PR & Singaporean applicants, let alone find any who actually want to do the job well.  And "adding tips" alone is not going to solve this problem.  
(Please note that I am generalizing.  More props to the exceptions out there.)

Here are three very different countries known for great service, and equally known to respect their hospitality industry back:
France: The service is arrogant.  Rude, haughty - you'd think you owed them something.  But demeanor aside, their service is impeccable.  Polished and professional, and proud of their line of work (then again, you can say the French are just proud in general... which isn't always a bad thing.).
Japan: Hospitality is bred into the Japanese culture.  In Japan, the customer is always right.  The needs and comfort of the customer is always considered whether you are ordering $200 dessert or $2 ramen.  Service is swift, graceful and unobtrusive.  Service is simply beautiful in Japan and the customers tend to reciprocate with equal mannerliness.
United States: You get what you pay for.  At a fine-dining establishment, expect the best.  Waiters here range from French-style arrogance (the raised eyebrow when you order tap water instead of sparkling) to the ones who treat you like a king or their favorite nephew.  Regardless of their personality (and Americans love to show their personality), every crumb will be swept off the table and water will be refilled without asking.  American-style service tends to be more chatty and personable; it's our way of showing we care about the customer. 

Service makes or breaks a restaurant.  There's no shame in being front of house. Remember: People will always remember good service better than they remember bad service, and good service has the power to guarantee a repeat customer.  Like any other profession, the only shame is if you don't perform to your best.  Take pride in your work--how do you expect people to respect your job when you don't respect it yourself?

Likewise for the customer, especially for the ones who have never and will never be in the service industry, your waiter isn't your servant.  Expect good service, but remember to show respect for your fellow people.  Waiting tables is physically taxing, and dealing with hungry customers face-to-face is one of the most exhausting first-world duties you can imagine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When I'm feeling blue about missing the 4th of July in the US...

...I see videos about Singapore's upcoming National Day Parade, and think, "well, at least I've got this."

They're singing about the goodie bags on the seats...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bella Notte, meatball romance

Nothing warms my heart like a guy who lets me have the last meatball.  That's true love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A taste of Guy Savoy [Food Diary]

Zwiesel Kristallglas hosted us at Guy Savoy last week (Zwiesel is the first company to discontinue the production of lead crystal in 1991, and have since been one of the market leaders of crystal glass making today).  The owner of Zwiesel, Dr. Andreas Buske is a big fan of Guy Savoy, and I'm glad. It means I finally got to taste some of Guy Savoy's signature dishes.  (And that leaves only one Marina Bay Sands restaurant left that I haven't tried:  CUT.  May I suggest Zwiesel host their next lunch there?)

Myriad of Spring Peas
Tout Petits Pois ($50)

Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche and Black Truffle Butter
Soup d'Artichaut a la Truffe Noire, Brioche Feuilletee aux Champignons et Truffes ($90 ?!!)

Roasted Atlantic Cod with Asparagus "en Soupe et Salade", Lemon Sabayon
Cabillaud Roti, Asperges en Soupe et Salade, Sabayon au Citron ($90)

[ no pic because I nommed it all ]
Chocolate Orb "Exotique" ($50)

Hefty price tag.  Thank you Zwiesel, because there is no way I'd pay $90 for soup otherwise.  I don't care if it has diamonds flakes in it.

My only favourites are the peas (so sweet, along with the slow cooked egg yolk, oozing richness over the surface) and Pastry Chef Alain Herber's beautiful toasted mushroom brioche (see Appetite's upcoming July issue to learn how to make it).

Guy Savoy
Casino Level 2, Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688-8513

Friday, June 24, 2011

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.  - Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

The Fullerton Hotel, a heritage icon since 1928

I'm a big fan of snail mail and have a soft spot for nostalgia.  The Fullerton Hotel is launching a lovely contest that invokes both of these things.

The "Post A Memory" contest welcomes creative submissions of letters, photographs, videos, music and art of any Singaporean resident or international traveler. They are asking all of us to share our fondest memories of the hotel as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations.  I would have done this regardless (sucker for these kinds of things, like I said), but to make the contest all the more sweet, the best 3 submissions will win a weekend stay at the luxurious Fullerton Suite, Loft Suite and Heritage Room.

Old school post boxes from the colonial days

I'm assuming the only limitation is that your entry has to be able to fit within the mouth of the gorgeous red post boxes located in their lobby.  The Fullerton Hotel was once home to Singapore's General Post Office, The Singapore Club and the Chamber of Commerce.  The now 400-room luxury hotel is proud of its heritage since 1928 and hasn't done much to change its lovely architecture over the years.  Within the hotel are Red Pillar Post Boxes, the same post boxes found along the streets of Singapore during the British colonial rule in the mid 1800s.

The contest ends at 5pm on 31 August 2011.  The winner will be announced on 30 September.

The Fullerton Hotel
1 Fullerton Square
Singapore 049178

Photos provided by Fullerton Hotel

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Size does matter.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you're getting hot and heavy with a man.  You get to the point where you eagerly unzip his pants... only to be woefully disappointed with the goods? Or maybe you remove a bra, ready with heightened anticipation for bountiful pillows to spill out... only to realize it was all a lie.

Then things deflate fast.

East Coast Seafood Centre

I wouldn't know how any of that feels, but I have a pretty good idea now.  This past Monday, after I cracked open my sri lankan crab claw at No Signboard Seafood, I stared at the dinky limp flesh that stood in its deceptively large shell.  I pried the puny, flaccid meat out, now lacking the initial enthusiasm I had originally walked in with.

Chili crab
I don't know if there's a term for these occasional cases of dinky crabs, but I'm going to call it DISAPPOINTMENT.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goodbye Food Pyramid, hello pie!

Trying hard not to look at it like it's pie.

Our First Lady Michelle Obama, a long time crusader against yucky school lunches, and the US Agriculture Department have trashed the Food Pyramid that our generation have grown to recognize as our guide to healthy eating.  Instead, they present a Plate that they hope better represents how we should portion our food.

Half the plate is fruit and veggies, while grains play a lesser role than what the food pyramid suggested.  Portions in general, should be smaller.

The new healthy eating guide, presented to America on 2 June 2011

The eating module we were taught since middle school; now dismissed.

“It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University.  Let's hope this new USD $2 million project plating leaves us with less obese people.

See more here, New York Times' coverage.

Monday, May 30, 2011

MOoooooo.... Delivery Cows.

A cow showed up at my office.  No, this is not some mean poke at fat Appetite staff.  A cow literally showed up.  I got a call from reception informing me of a strange guest visitor.  So when I stood up and walked over to see, I immediately freaked out and ran over to my assistant editor's desk to hide (she later showed her loving support by following me over with her camera instead).

Sneaking around!

Here he comes...

The gals at Ben & Jerry's had informed me the day before that I would be getting a sample of the new Ben & Jerry's flavour dropped off the next morning.  I didn't know the cow himself would show.

Doh, we're in matching black & white too...

I twittered like mad that morning...mostly freaking out and stunned by the whole ordeal.  The ENTIRE office came over to see why there was a cow in our office... and wondering why on earth was Woody (the cow) taking photos with me?!  This actually happened back in early April, but I never got around to posting about it until now. 

It certainly made my morning despite being absolutely flabbergasted.  I was all smiles the rest of the day.  And the new ice-cream flavor?  "Clusterfluff."  Yeesh, I almost typed that wrong.  Slightly inappropriate typo if that happened.  It's delicious though.  Give it a try.

Udderly yours,
Victoria of Gastronommy

Friday, May 27, 2011

My favorite spot in all of Singapore

I was hesitant to share this spot on my site.  It's a tourist destination during the day, but I didn't want to give away my secret hideaway where I go when I want a quiet late night walk. The bridge was constructed only within the year; you can still smell the fresh wood of the balau planks as you walk across.  And at night, there's a cool breeze that seeps through the cracks.  It's my favorite place to zen out.

I was there again the other night after a two hour walk with the dog.  There was a lightning storm flashing in the distance, and I was lucky enough to catch one or two shots of it.  Beautiful.

 My best midnight walking buddy.

Henderson Waves
(above Henderson Road)
Connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park, Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge and ranked one of the most beautiful bridges in the world.  ...and who said the now half-retired PAP who commission these things had no taste, eh.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

GastronommyTV: Cocktail making at TAB Singapore

Finally!  Gastronommy TV visits TAB, a live-music venue, bar & bistro in Singapore.  Besides the fantastic line-up they have every week and their perfect fish n' chips, TAB also has some of the best cocktails in town.  In this episode with me, we have the young Josiah Leming from American Idol and Kenny Leong, a professional wine critic.

Cocktails are by Zach Elias, recent winner at the third and final challenge of Diageo's World class challenge.  He is currently competing against 3 other bartenders to represent Singapore at the Global Finals in India this July (competing against Patrick from Tippling Club, Raveen from Nektar, Akhiro from Orgo).  There, the winner will compete against 33 of the world's most talented bartenders for the title of Diageo Reserve Bartender of the Year.  Suffice to say, he knows his stuff.
Click here for the article on origins of cocktail making.

I'm very well aware of my stuttering in the beginning.  Haha!  I'm embarassed, but the show must go on.

Keep up to date with TAB's latest acts and upcoming parties at

Thanks Kenny and Josiah for joining me at TAB. Big thanks to my friends Adrian Mah, Varian Lim, Keith Tan and TAB's bar staff for letting me invade their bar for this video. Biggest thanks to Michelle Chua, Zoanne Tan, Jason Tan and crew for filming and editing this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cookyn with Victoria (and Mervyn)

Earlier I mentioned I had a birthday celebration on the actual weekend of my birthday.  I also had a more wholesome gathering a few weeks later at Mervyn &Amanda's kitchen at Cookyn with Mervyn.  We had a cook-off challenge amongst the 20 attendees.

My birthday March 14th is otherwise known as Pi Day (3.14), so going along with that and my basic love of all sorts of pies, the theme was PIE.  Mervyn & Amanda were two of the three judges.  Giving us a list of limited ingredients, we only had 1.5 hours to make a 3-course menu.  We were judged on:

- Presentation
- Timing
- Teamwork
- Cleanliness
- Taste
- Rules (used all of the ingredients at some point and one dish had to be some sort of pie)

Sad to say, I was on the losing team (we won in the 'taste' category though!).  I couldn't pull the, "But it's my birthday" string.  Admittedly, the winning team did have a fantastic finish with much better presentation... though I personally give them 0 points for sportsmanship.  Boy, did they rub it in our faces.

CLICK "Read More" to see the other photos below!
(photos from myself, Jason Iafolla, Hale Cho, Amanda Phan, Regina Tan)


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