22.7.14

Muthu's Curry, Dempsey

We'd originally planned on hitting up Samy's Curry for lunch, but alas, they were closed. Luckily, there was Muthu's Curry just around the corner in the Dempsey Hills enclave, so we got to have our Indian food fix afterall.

Despite a modern sleek interior swathed in black and punctuated with bright orange hues, the food at this South Indian stalwart has stayed grounded, traditional, and authentic. In addition to modernising its operations and decor, Muthu's Curry has branched out into North Indian cuisine; a fantastic way of drawing in the chilli-averse, as North Indian fare tends to be less potent than its Southern counterpart.

For easy reference, I'll sequence the dishes in order of spiciness, starting from the mild to the stomach-churning ones at the end.

Their Naans, a trio of the Plain ($3), Garlic ($4) and Cheese ($4) varieties, were perfect foils for soaking up the addictive curries. Chewy and fresh, these were imbued with a delectably smoky fragrance from the tandoor oven.

The Paalak Paneer ($9), with cubes of homemade cottage cheese dunked into a smooth-as-silk pureed spinach was nicely balanced between the bittersweet and sour, but a little pedestrian.

We all loved the sunny Cabbage Thoran, sweet and so scrumptious in its simplicity. Suffice it to say, I got seconds and thirds of this.

The Yellow Daal ($8.50), studded with dried chillis and cumin seeds, was mellow, mushy and delicate.

The Aloo Gobi ($8), stir-fried potatoes and cauliflower lightly spiced and flavoured with cumin was excellent as well.

The Butter Chicken ($12) was possibly the least spicy curry of them all. Here, barbecued chicken chunks were dunked in a creamy, buttery, mildly spiced gravy.

The Mutton Mysore ($11) stir-fried with chilli, coriander powder and cashews, was just superb. The mutton was executed with finesse, devoid of the scent of game and incredibly moist and tender.

The Chicken Tikka ($12), boneless chicken rich in a yoghurt-tandoori spiced marinade was grilled to a succulent, juicy perfection. Deceptively mild-looking, it packed quite a mean right hook.

The Chicken Tikka Masala ($12) was basically chicken tikka dunked into a punchy, complex tomato-garlic based curry. 

The Chicken Masala ($5 per piece) was tongue-numbingly spicy. Its thick, paste-like curry gravy kept the chicken hunks all moist and tender, so even the breast pieces were a joy to eat. No scrambling for the thighs here!


Muthu's Curry
Blk 7 Dempsey Road #01-01
Tel: 6474 5128
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.muthuscurry.com

21.7.14

Stewed Pork Belly with Potatoes and Shitake

This is my 2nd attempt at babi pongteh. It's inched towards a more authentic taste of the nonya classic, but it still requires a fair bit of improvement. On the upside, the Hubs pointed out that, in my attempt to make this more like babi pongteh, it's ended up a better tau yu bak. So until I get a truly authentic flavour of babi pongteh, I'll just keep chronicling my attempts right here as "braised/stewed pork".

Ingredients (feeds 6):
1 kg pork belly, sliced chunky, blanched in boiling water, trimmed off any hair and marinated in thick black soya for at least 1 hour (best if overnight)
10 shitake, sliced roughly
4 potatoes, diced into 1" cubes
50gm shallots, pounded finely
80gm garlic, pounded finely
4 tbsp heaps taucheo
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp thick black soy
80gm gula melaka
6 cups water
1 tbsp frying oil
1 tbsp sesame oil


Directions:
1) Fry shallots in frying oil-sesame oil combi on low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

2) Add garlic and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

3) Add taucheo and fry till intensely fragrant, semi-dry and colour changes into a deeper caramel, about 3 minutes.

4) Add light and dark soy.

5) Add mushrooms and fry till water released, about 1 minute.

6) Add pork and fry for about 1 minute.

7) Deglaze with about 6 cups water and add gula melaka.

8) Increase fire to bring the stew to a roaring boil, before lowering to a medium fire, and simmer for 30 minutes till pork is fork-tender. Add potatoes and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to cook through and soften.

9) Top with freshly cut green chillis and serve with homemade sambal belachan.

20.7.14

Ramen Kagetsu Arashi, Star Vista

I've realised, that when it comes to ramen virgins, they tend to hate the heavy cloying richness of tonkotsu broths. To ease such ramen newbies into the world of ramen, your best bet lies with chicken-based ramens, which steer towards the light and clear. Ramen Kagetsu Arashi, one of the most established and extensive ramen chains in Japan, is a good starting point for those averse or new to ramen. They specialise in delightfully light chicken stock-based ramen simply seasoned with salt. 

We had lunch here at their first ever shop at Star Vista, where we were spectators to a manifestation of the current labour crunch: There was just 1 staff zipping around on the floor, cramming all of the responsibilities of a waitress, cleaner and cashier. And just 1 cook helming the kitchen. So you can just imagine how slow and flustered the service was.

That said, they offer one of the most value-for-money set lunches around, Arashi's Lunch Set ($10.80), comprises your choice of a downsized ramen with a side dish, dessert and unlimited cups of green tea.

The Junior Arashi Genkotsu Sio Ramen, their signature specialty, gets my vote for a clear broth that's rich in depth but manages a delicate clarity that's slurpilicious to the last drop. The cha siu was tender and flavourful, but the egg (hard, not soft boiled) was staid and lackadaisical. An insider tip is to sprinkle, liberally, the French-Japanese black pepper condiment available at every tabl;, its incredible fragrance lent an amazing punch.

My favourite side was the Buta Moyashi, beansprouts stir-fried with minced pork, a refreshing balance to the ramen.

The singular prawn Ebi Fry side didn't fare too badly either. Crisp breaded crust and juicy insides.

The Kaki Fry, a duo of plump oysters similarly breaded and crisped, would likely be the side of choice for seafood lovers.

They only had Apple and Lychee Konnyaku jellies for dessert that day. Run-of-the-mill but a cool light finish to the meal.


Ramen Kagetsu Arashi
#01-41 The Star Vista
1 Vista Exchange Green
Tel: 6339 0335
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11am to 10pm
Fridays and Saturdays from 11.30am to 11pm
Sundays from 11.30am to 10pm

19.7.14

The Asian Kitchen, Vivocity

I can totally understand why Vivocity remains one of the most frequented malls in Singapore. The mega mall houses dozens of F&B options! I'd only ever been to the above ground restaurants, but I've recently discovered the basement level eateries.

The Asian Kitchen, a casual Chinese eatery, conveniently located in the second basement, draws the hordes of MRT-based foot traffic during peak hours with the comforting taste of Chinese homecooking. We like that the food here is hearty and well-priced, while the brisk, if sometimes frazzled, service helps with a quick, low-fuss meal.

The Chicken Chop Fried Rice ($9.50) may not be ultra refined, but is thick with the familiar taste of home and laced with a fine eggy scramble. But, the star of the dish was the fried chicken cutlet, with a golden and crisp breaded coat, and succulent and tasty meat.

The Eggy Bowl Rice ($6.50) appears a disgusting mess, but oh is the mince-laced gravy glorious. Maybe not as awesomesauce as the one at Shin Yeh but still glorious. This was more strongly reminiscent of the flavours seasoning glutinous rice dumplings.


The Prawn Wanton La Mian ($9.20) wasn't too bad either, I liked the springy bite of the hand-pulled noodles and wantons were silky and plentiful.

The Hot & Sour Soup ($7.20) was choc-a-bloc with mushrooms, black fungus, tofu, egg drop and bamboo shoots, and packed a robust piquant punch. That said, the soup base could have had a little more depth.

The Xiao Long Bao (complimentary if paying with DBS credit card) wasn't too bad either, considering it was free. I wouldn't say it rendered the reigning Din Tai Fung second-rate, but this was a worthwhile qualifier. Skin was thicker than DTF's but not by much, while filling was dense and dripping with a juicy stock that was rich in depth. 


The Asian Kitchen
1 Harbourfront Walk
Vivocity B2-29
Tel: 6376 9623
Open daily from 11am to 10pm

17.7.14

XO French Beans

This is just about the quickest side dish to complement any dinner. I usually whip this up just when the first dinner guests start arriving, as it'll be ready to serve in under 5 minutes!


Ingredients (feeds 4):
2 pounds fine baby French beans, ends trimmed
2 tbsp XO sauce
1 tsp frying oil
1 tsp sesame oil


Directions:
1) Blanch the beans in salted boiling water for 1 minute.

2) Drain and shock beans in an ice-bath to stop the cooking process and keep it bright green

3) Heat 2 tbsp XO sauce in 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tsp cooking oil on low heat until fragrant. You don't need a lot of oil here because most XO sauces already have a layer of oil.

4) Stir fry the beans to coat the XO sauce evenly through, about 1 minute, and voila, you've got yourself a deliciously simple dish!


16.7.14

La Strada

La Strada has become our weekday dinner go-to place. We love it here; the food's consistently sublime and there's a familiarity about the cosy restaurant that's very Cheers-like, where everyone knows your name. By our second visit, the manager had learnt our names and our peculiarities, and automatically held off the coriander/cilantro/parsley in all our dishes.

We brought Kimchi here once, and made a fan out of him. He'd fallen in love with La Strada at first bite (of their carbonara). 

The Wagyu Carpaccio ($28) was exquisite; ribbons of fatty melty beef spiked with the peppery kick of baby arugula, and the robust tang of aged balsamic reduction.

I would have preferred if the Cestino di Focaccia al Pomodoro ($8) tomato focaccia, were complimentary, but boy were they awesome. Soft and pillowy, these were imbued with incredible fragrance and flavour, and dotted with sundried tomatoes and black olives.

It's truffle season!! We got their special, the King Crab Risotto ($50) lavished with 3 grams of black winter truffle. Infused with the sweet essence of crabmeat, grounded in the earthiness of porcini broth, and ever so delicately accented by the truffle, the risotto was pure perfection.

Their regular risotto, the Risotto All'Aragosta ($40) was gloriously texturised by sumptuous chunks of maine lobster, green asparagus and fennel.

The Tagliolini al Granchio ($32) was simply seasoned with white wine, chillis and garlic, and laden with oodles of freshly shredded mud crab, julienned peppers and fleshy cherry tomatoes. Somehow, the homemade pasta reminded me of mee pok, in that it was delightfully springy and chewy.

The Ravioli alla Ricotta e Spinaci ($26), a trio of fat dumplings gorged with delicate ricotta and spinach was gratinated with oozy cheese for a creamy finish.


La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#01-11 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6735 6656
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.lastrada.com.sg

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