Sunday, April 28, 2019

Visiting Ling Zhi for Vegetarian Dimsum & Vegetarian Hot Pot

I'm not vegetarian, and grew up with a general dislike of Chinese vegetarian cuisine. I had the impression it was mostly full of starchy sauces and mock meats, aka balls of gluten. So, visiting Ling Zhi Vegetarian, a restaurant that also doesn't add garlic, Allium chinense, asafoetida, shallot and mountain leek (a consideration for Buddhist vegetarians) had me skeptical.

This post, however, isn't about my very first visit anymore. Since my first time at Ling Zhi, I've been back countless times.

As far as a non-vegetarian can say, one of the first major considerations for a vegetarian restaurant, is that the food doesn't make you miss meat. Ling Zhi succeeds in this regard, and particularly impressive because the restaurant doesn't make use of mock meats. Instead the chef cleverly uses whole vegetable and mushroom produce in a way that leaves diners satisfied.

Here's a ultra-fast walk through of what the restaurant looks like at Novena. At this location, Ling Zhi has vegetarian hot pot buffet, as well as vegetarian dim sum! For a more traditional a la carte menu, Ling Zhi at Orchard would be your best bet.

Greetings from me, Gareth Fernandez, and Kym!

Satay. One of the favorites amongst my friends, the delectable satay is cleverly made of monkeyhead mushroom.

The hotpot comes with a huge range of options.

Including a plethora of vegetarian sauces.

Hot pot time!

The collagen soup takes us aback. It's addictively good, so we're constantly asking for soup top-ups.

Vegetarian dimsum. Kym and I are diehard charsiubao fans, and both ate 2 baos each of the LingZhi version.

Another one of our top picks, the LingZhi version of Hakka Thunder Tea Rice. This dish uses premium ingredients and rice. It's hands down one of our new favorite lei cha spots in Singapore.

There's also a popiah station! We were getting full, but ultimately couldn't resist getting one.

We ate so much good food, and also felt great about not having had a bite of actual meat. Yay sustainability!

All in all, a great experience.

This location is at LingZhi Novena
238 Thomson Rd, #03-09/10,Velocity@Novena Square, 307683

Other locations:  LingZhi Orchard
541 Orchard Rd, #05-01 Liat Towers, Singapore 238881

Monday, March 11, 2019

Best Butter Brands According to Chefs

You're in the dairy section of the supermarket: what brand of butter do you pick up?

There I was, asking my partner which brand I should get for the house this time, Kerrygold or Echiré? "Get the cheapest one," he replied. Glancing at the prices first, TO MY HORROR HE REACHED FOR MARGARINE.

Like quality of eggs, brand of butter is of supreme importance to me. It's a daily staple, whether in cooking or slathered over a piece of toast. But to some people, like my boyfriend, "What's the big deal? It's all the same." 

His point really had me thinking... I actually love this man?

Nevertheless, I'm convinced people of this nature just need to try the best even just once, to appreciate why it matters.

Fortuitously, a week later, we dined at the newly opened Table65 in Singapore, serving a menu which consisted of a bunch of things he normally doesn't care for: mackerel, herring, oysters, and of course, his indifference towards butter. Served in a glass bowl, the creamy, smoky, salted French butter blew his mind. He requested for multiple mini-sourdough loaves til dessert, so he could continue to eat the butter at a 1:1 ratio.

(side note, it was also one of the first times he enjoyed aforementioned seafood as well. Bravo and thank you, Table65. More about Table65's butter in the article ahead.)

So I thought to share some opinions from cooks and chef friends around Singapore. We've got a range of nationalities and personalities here, who've been so kind as to share their thoughts on butter. It's particularly interesting, since it turns out not every chef is a butter snob:


Chef Shen Tan, Ownselfmakechef (and my co-host on Kitchen Invasion)

1. All-Around Favorite brand of butter: Anchor Butter

2. Favorite Butter for Toast vs. Cooking: For toast, Bordier Demi Sel. For cooking, Anchor Butter, because it is from grass-fed pasture cows.

3. Other thoughts on butter: Butter is awesome. Especially when frying luncheon meat. Brown butter cake! Eat it with a fried egg in butter and migoreng.

Isn’t she awful? I love it.

Chef Kirk Westaway, Chef de Cuisine, JAAN

“Butter from Devonshire, south west of England, world famous for dairy production. Especially butter and clotted cream served with scones (“Devon” cream tea). It’s famously rich from free grazing cows on the rolling Devon hills.”

Chef Kirk then sent me this exact screenshot. Thanks for the visual.

Chef Huang Ming Tan, Chef Owner (JAM at Sirihouse)
(also a co-host on Kitchen Invasion, and makes good sandwiches)

1) Best all-around butter: Kerrygold - best balance of flavour, great colour, tasty to eat with pancakes (salted) and to sear and make pastries with (sweet).

2) Best butter for toast vs cooking:

Echiré for toast. That slight funk is incomparable for straight eating on toast, where you want a robust salting to complement whatever base carb you have: potatoes, brioche, sourdough, pancakes, noodles.

Kerrygold for cooking. The funk of fermented butter found in French types doesn't sit well with me. I prefer a straight nuttiness when the milk solids brown and caramelise.

3. Other thoughts on butter: I hate it when restaurants serve unsalted butter with bread. Where's the joy in eating something that hasn't been seasoned? A bland dinner roll with unsalted butter is like eating a napkin with margarine.

One of life's greatest joys is eating salted butter and bread. Fresh, crispetty baguette, just-toasted brioche or a crusty sourdough hunk. Appropriate with honey and kaya for breakfast, foie and jam for lunch, mopping jus and sauces during dinner.

KF Seetoh, Founder (Makansutra)

"I'm ol school Costolee (SCS) salted butter man, from Cold Storage. Love the sinful ones. I will add truffle oils or shavings, and blend it in when I can. Spread that toasted brioche or local baguette, and I'm a happy man.

I have even had 6 butters from 6 cows at French Laundry, none memorable la. Still my Costolee is best!"

Chef Wai Leong Woo, Chef-Owner (Restaurant Ibid)

“Usually for cooking, I think it’s all down to price. But when butter is used for eating with bread, then it gets a bit more interesting.”

Chef Bob, Walking Fridge and Founder (also a co-host on Kitchen Invasion)

1.     Golden Churn
2.     Golden Churn
3.     Golden Churn

Wholesome, nutty, and for the caramelized colour it adds to the steak when basted with it. It’s amazing.

Chef Anthony Yeoh, Chef-Owner (Summerhill)

Chef Ant knows a thing or two about fried chicken.

1. Favorite all-around butter: Kerrygold or President.
2. Échiré for toast and unsalted President for cooking.
3. Other thoughts on butter: It’s so good on Fried Chicken.

Chef Chris Martin, not the Coldplay guy, (Summerhill)

1. Beurre D'Isigny is my all-round fave, for the nutty flavour and slight tang. It's really good on its own or with a sprinkle of salt flakes.

2. Fave butter for toast: I would have to say simple good old margarine. It's not the healthiest, but eh! I grew up on it, to me it's nostalgia.

Fave cooking butter: President unsalted butter. It's got that really creamy rich flavour, which is what you're looking for in all those French dishes (damn fine for mash potatoes).

3. Other thoughts on butter: Butter is good fried meats too. Ha! Basting it over a nice piece of breaded veal chop tastes pretty damn fine. 

Chef Steven Snowdon, Executive Chef (Subrosa Private Dining), Finalist (Eat, List, Star)

1. My favourite butter would have to be Vermont creamery cultured butter with sea salt crystals. It's really good, like OMG good! It's tangy, creamy and over the top buttery butter. It's strong, reminds me of a very good homemade butter made from strong full fat farmed cream left to culture for a while. It's not for everyone, because it's strong. But if you're a butter person, it's a must try. Take it from a chef.

2. Fave butter for toast vs fave butter for cooking: President butter for cooking! It's a pretty strong butter, all around great saltiness and foams nicely when needing to baste meats or monte butter/burn noisette. It's also great for toast or adding flavourings to it, it holds up very well. Also great for baking.

For toast, President or Kerrygold pure Irish butter, very creamy, you can taste the Irish meadows. The Salted version is also very good. Quite an underdog in the the butter world.

3. Any other commentary on butter: Butter is super diverse once you understand it and how many butters vary in tastes, from creaminess to very tangy, sour, how long it's cultured for. There are so many butters on the market that are great. I've always loved French or British butters simply because in Europe we have great cream and milk, but any home made cultured butter from great cream I'm all for! Some butters are made from super strong full fat creams to very light single creams. 

It also depends on how the cattle is bred, what it's fed, diet, etc. A little experiment for the not-so-buttery peoples, would be to get three different creams, a commercial version full fat, a single cream and an Artisan farmers fresh full fat cream and make three different butters yourself, leave them to culture for different times and then test the flavors, and you'll see how diverse butter can be.

Chef Bjorn Shen, Judge (MasterChef Singapore), Chef-Owner (Artichoke)

"I don't have a preferred butter actually. I'll grab what's in front of me. I'm ghetto like that."

"At a grocery store, I'll take whatever is on special... 2-for-1. Best." But not margarine, since he recalls someone mentioning that margarine is bad cholesterol.

Chef Drew Nocente, Executive Chef (Salted and Hung)

1. Bordier has to be my all time favourite, amazing flavour and a really smooth texture.

2. For both cooking and toast, I like Kerrygold Irish Butter. It's really tasty with high fat content and rich flavour, with just a slight acidity to it. I use salted to toast, unsalted for cooking.

Chef Dayal Kesha, Jr Sous Chef (table65)

1. Favourite brand of butter would be Lescure (which is the brand we use at the restaurant). My love of butter started with Anchor, a common dairy brand in New Zealand. But I can strongly remember when and where I was the first time I tasted Lescure, and how it took me to a new level of appreciation for butter – which is kinda cool. I wouldn’t be surprised if later in life when I have my own restaurant where we make our own butter that we have a small supply of this for the guests to take home, so i can see this answer changing from being lescure to our own butter.

2. I make my own butter at home for the sole purpose of spreading on our sourdough that we also make. I don’t use so much butter at home for cooking, but i always have a block of Anchor in the fridge mainly because of the cost, but I do like using Lescure for pastries as it caramelises nicely while also working wonders for the texture of these items.

3. Making butter is quite simple and also very rewarding. It can get messy but playing around with various methods, cultures, cream varieties as well as adding various flavours can lead to some great results. The possibilities are only confined by your desire for experimentation. 

As you can see, there's no one true butter to rule them all. Generally, we can all agree that butter makes eating bread a million times better. For anyone who's never considered butter options before, I encourage you to experiment and taste test this affordable luxury.

PS. My current personal preference is Echiré and Kerrygold for bread, President butter for cooking at home. However, my butter quest is always active and open.


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