Dakbokkeum-tang (Korean red spicy braised chicken)

This is the red version of dak dori-tang that you'll see in most Korean restaurants, which I will call Dakbokkeum-tang for easy reference.

Ingredients (feeds 4 pax):
1.5kg chicken pieces, cut (I used a mix of chicken thigh and drumsticks)
2 large potatoes, cut into 1.5" cubes
15 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, minced
1 head garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, sliced into 3 large pieces
10 green chillis (I used Japanese shisito peppers), sliced and seeds removed
handful dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato noodles)
5 dried red chillis, ends removed
2 large carrots, diced to 1" cubes
2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean chilli pepper powder)
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp guk ganjang (Korean light soy for soup)
2 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
5 cups water
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp canola oil
sesame seeds for garnishing

1) Fry onions in pre-heated canola oil and sesame oil, until translucent.

2) Add garlic, and fry till fragrant.

3) Add ginger, and fry till fragrant.

4) Add carrots, fry about half a minute.

5) Add mushrooms, fry till softened.

6) Add chillis, and fry for half a minute.

7) Add chicken, and fry till appearance no longer pink.

8) Add water, gochugaru, honey, guk kanjang, mirin, gochujang, stirring to dissolve.

9) Add red chillis, and bring to boil, before lowering to simmer for at least 50 minutes.

10) Add potatoes 15 minutes before serving.

11) Add dangmyeon 5 minutes before serving.

12) Garnish with sesame seeds, fresh pepper, and salt to taste.


Madam Saigon

Our little island is well into monsoon season, and we were craving something warm and soupy and comforting in the middle of yet another thunderstorm, when we happened upon Madam Saigon. Located at the restaurant stretch of Millenia Walk facing Conrad Hotel, the intrepid little eatery wasn't the most inviting: its utilitarian, garnish aesthetic and bare occupancy didn't exactly bode a delicious meal. There were buzzier, more popular eateries along said stretch, but I'm a sucker for pho, and so we walked in.

Turns out my weakness for pho was a good thing. and Madam Saigon has become one of our favourite go-tos for a conveniently-located, low-fuss, authentically delicious Vietnamese meal.

Also, service was surprisingly gracious for a casual mass-market bistro. A big gold star point, the staff were atypically generous with our requests for fresh herbs.

The Saigon Fried Spring Roll ($6.90) was pretty stellar, with crunchy vegetables a-plenty and fried to a delightful crisp. Juicy and sweet on its own, even without the dipping sauce.

For those preferring something a little more robust, the Spicy Beef Vermicelli Soup Hue-Style ($10.90) was a fantastic option. This was fiery and rich and layered with the heft of meltingly tender beef.

The Chicken Noodle Soup ($10.50) was delicate but well-rounded, abundant in succulent shredded chicken and fresh sprouts.

A signature, the salad-like Prawn Vermicelli ($15.50) was a blast of contrasting textures. I loved the crunch, the prawns were fat and sweet, and the dressing was a lively blend of the savoury and sweet.

Madam Saigon
Millenia Walk #01-26
9 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 6338 3831
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: www.madamsaigon.com.sg


Yukgaejang (Korean Spicy Shredded Beef Soup with Vegetables)

Yukgaejang was another dish I whipped up over my "week of atonement" for forgetting the Hubs' birthday. A spicy soup laden with shredded beef brisket, and uniquely seasoned with gosari, this is really quick to make, BUT only IF the beef is pre-cooked and shredded. The reason I say this, is because I didn't think brisket would take more than 2 hours to soften (enough to shred). And so I only started cooking in the evening after work, and because the beef took 4 hours to cook through, it meant that the Hubs only got to eat dinner close to 11pm.


So, lesson learned: pop your brisket into a slow cooker first thing in the morning before you go to work, so it cooks through the day, and when you get home, it takes like less than half an hour to cook a hearty comforting stew.

Ingredients (feeds 4 pax):
1kg beef brisket
10 cups water
1 head garlic, cloves smashed
1 small onion, cut into big chunks
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1 cup bracken fiddleheads (gosari), rehydrate in water overnight
4 cups shiitake, sliced
Sesame seeds for garnishing
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: eggs (apportion 1 per pax)

Seasoning (A) (this makes a 1-person portion of paste):
2 tbsp guk ganjang (Korean light soy sauce for soup)
2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 tsp doenjang (Korean bean paste)

1) Parboil beef in water, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2) Boil and simmer beef with fresh pot of water, about 10 cups, with smashed garlic and onion, for at least 4 hours, until beef tender enough to shred. If pressed for time, pop this into a slow cooker first thing in the morning before you leave for work. It'll be soft enough to shred by the time you return from work.

3) Mix seasoning (A), multiply amount by 4 times, in proportion to number of pax.

4) Drain beef when tender to shred, reserving about 8 cups of stock, and discarding the garlic and onion. Shred beef into pulled strips.

5) Marinade shredded beef with mixed seasoning (A).

6) Return marinated beef to pot with stock.

7) Add mushrooms and gosari, at low boil for 15 minutes.

8) Transfer to individual ddukbaegi (those black Korean earthenware pots), add sprouts and stir in egg drop, for each pax.

9) Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lashings of sesame seeds.


Long Chim by David Thompson

I wasn't enthused when a friend asked for company to dine at Long Chim. For one, it's an outpost of a celebrity restaurant, which, on its own, is deterrent enough. Add to that the fact that said celebrity chef is a white guy, yet Long Chim serves Thai street food. [insert *rolls eyes* emoji here] Suffice to say, I was real skeptical about how authentic the flavours could be.

Lucky for me that my friend's got good instincts. Long Chim turned out to be my favourite Thai restaurant find of the year. The food, a modern twist on Thai street grub, is bold, unadulterated, and absolutely smashing. No watering down of anything here!

The heady spice of the Fish Cakes ($17) was countered with a refreshingly piquant cucumber and peanut relish. One of the best renditions of the ubiquitous Thai appetizer, springy in texture with nary a whiff of fishy stench.

A must try, the Spicy Pork with Rice Cakes ($23) was a lively hodgepodge of minced pork, raw shallots, dried chillis, and ginger strips. Swaddle a heapful into betel leaves, and it's like a party in your mouth.

The perfectly cooked Stir Fried Baby Squid ($26) was moreish with squid ink, and dosed with the heat of green peppercorn, holy basil, and fresh birds eye chillis.

A distinctively Oriental dish, the Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli ($26) with braised pork belly, and oyster sauce was a welcome respite from the heat of the other dishes. I liked everything on this plate, Greens that boasted a delightful crunch, flavoursome pork that was tender, and a tasty gravy that was redolent with buttery garlicky accents.

The Green Curry Chicken ($24), robust with a grassy spice blend, and rich in coconut cream, was generous with succulent chicken hunks, Thai eggplant, and green chillis.

The Red Curry of Roast Duck ($32), dotted with sweet lychees and eggplant, was fantastic. That duck alone was compelling enough, fresh without that gross gamey taste. 

The Chiang Mai Curried Noodle Soup ($27) laden with thick slabs of meltingly tender beef cheeks, was drenched in a thick potent gravy fragrant with cardamom, and topped with crispy egg noodles.

The Tom Yam Seafood Soup ($32) was a rousing riot of the sour and spicy, choc-a-bloc with swimmingly fresh prawns, fish and squid.

Long Chim by David Thompson
10 Bayfront Ave
#02-02, Atrium 2 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688 7299
Open daily from 12noon to 12midnight
Website: www.longchim.com.sg


Sek Tong Gai

I'm always on the lookout for good cze char places, paying particular attention to those not too far off the reservation. Sek Tong Gai made a blip on my radar, when a friend of a friend posted his seafood feast of a dinner on social media. The Alaskan king crab noodles had caught my eye, and as soon as I could, I gathered the troops, together with andmorefood. We needed the critical mass to order loads.

We were surprised to find Sek Tong Gai barely filled with diners on a Friday evening; it appears that the restaurant has remained a hidden gem. It's astonishing because the food was outstanding. Like Best-of-2016, impressively good. Oh well, better for me that they stay unknown; no worries about making advanced reservations at the itsy bitsy-ish eatery.

Prices are a smidge on the premium range, but in view of the standard of food, I say it's money well spent. Portions for most dishes are on the petite side, so despite the massive spread below, we actually thought, post-dinner, that we could have polished off an entire Alaskan king crab (instead of a half serving), together with a fish option. A big plus: corkage is free, so you'll find many customers lugging their expensive vintages to dinner. Another bonus: they're open till 1am, which makes Sek Tong Gai an excellent supper venue.

The highlight of dinner, and the numero uno must-try, was the Braised Alaskan King Crab with Bee Hoon ($298 for half of a 1.7kg bugger). The noodles were insanely delicious. Steeped in that sumptuous stock, the rich depth of flavour imbued into the rice vermicelli was balanced with fresh leek, onions of the fried and stewed styles, juicy black chinese mushrooms, and shredded cabbage, while the crab lent an exquisite sweetness. Distinctively more elegant and definitely more worthwhile, than the always crowded Long Ji.

A variation of the above, the Boston Lobster Stewed with Vermicelli ($166) was a little less sweet, but amazingly nuanced in its delicate sweetness.

We also had a quarter portion of the Alaskan King Crab Baked with Salted Egg Yolk ($126), which was sinfully indulgent. The salted egg yolk burnished a grainy sumptuousness to the sweet flesh of the crab.

A signature, the Hong Kong Kailan ($12), is done two-ways for a modern twist of the standard stir-fried green. The stems are blanched, and the leaves are fried to a crisp, then the mound of them is slathered in a delicate soy and oil sauce, and showered with lashings of fried shallots. Beautiful contrast in textures, robust flavours. No excuse not to eat your vegetables now. 

The Sauteed French Beans ($8) was imbued with an excellent wok hei, crunchy and delicious.

The Steamed Prawns with Egg White & Ginger ($22 for 300gm at $7/100gm) was strikingly polished. The prawns were sparkling fresh, its subtle sweetness complemented by an incredibly nuanced broth. I've to confess, I licked the plate clean off.

Another must-try, the Claypot Soon Hock with Minced Meat & Beancurd ($97), speckled with shimeiji mushrooms, was earthy, having been infused liberally with bulbs of roasted garlic. Exquisite!

The Beancurd & Seafood Claypot ($18), laden with plump prawns, springy squid, and fleshy fish slices, was subtly spiked with chilli for a punchy lift.

A striped down version, the Plain Deep Fried Beancurd ($8) was sided by a thick sweet-spicy sauce. Simplicity at its finest.

A recommendation that was very well appreciated, the Char-Grilled Pork ($22 for small) was scrumptious. Juicy and luscious, the marinade was at once smoky, sweet, tangy and delicious. A must-try.

The San Bei Chicken ($22 for small), or "three cup" chicken with equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine, beautifully slicked with a stickily sweet and spicy glaze, was succulent, and imbued with an aromatic smoky essencce.

The only disappointment was the Sliced Beef with Spicy Sauce & Dried Shrimp ($24). The seasoning was on point, a layered heat of dried chillis, dried shrimp, fried garlic, and curry leaves, but the beef was the culprit. It lacked heft and freshness, so while the beef was meltingly fatty, the heady spice failed to mask its inferior quality.

The Fried Ee-Fu Noodles ($8) was one of the very best renditions I've ever had. A rich stock had steeped into each silky strand, lightened with fresh chives and oodles of straw mushrooms.

Sek Tong Gai
47 Tanglin Halt Road
Tel: 6474 4547
Open Wednesdays to Mondays from 6pm to 1am; Closed on Tuesdays
Website: www.sektonggai.com


Gamjatang (Korean Spicy Pork Bone Soup)

So, it's the Hubs' birthday (which date I keep forgetting), and in an attempt to be a "good dutiful" wife, I'm cooking Korean cuisine every day all week to celebrate his Korean heritage.

We're kicking off the all-Korean week with Gamja-Tang, a spicy soup traditionally made with pork spine. Since we can't get pork spine in this part of the world, I made do with a mix of pork ribs and pork neck. It's one of our favourite Korean foods, and near-impossible to find a worthwhile rendition here in SG.

The key to this soup is perilla leaves, a cousin of Japanese shiso leaves. It's a little minty, a little cool, and a lot refreshing. It's not the easiest thing to find in SG, but I've discovered that Isetan supermarket sells it! It's called "egoma leaves", as in Japan.  

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1 kg pork ribs/neck with bones

Boil for stock (A):
1 small yellow onion, cut large chunks
6 cloves garlic, smashed
4 slabs ginger, from 1 thumb size
1 scallion, white parts only
10 black peppercorns
8 cups water

Seasoning (B) (this makes a 1 person portion of paste):
5 tbsp gochugaru (red chilli pepper flakes)
2 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
2 tbsp doenjang (bean paste)
3 tbsp guk kanjang (Korean light soy sauce)
10 cloves garlic, minced
5 tbsp deulkkae-garu (perilla powder)
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp saeujoet (Korean salted fermented shrimp)

10 leaves napa cabbage, cut into 2" lengths
8 potatoes, cut into 2" cubes
20 perilla leaves (ggaennip)
Sesame seeds

1) Par-boil pork ribs in enough water to cover the ribs, about 8 minutes. (This rids the pork of its "porky weighty stench") Drain and set aside.

2) Return par-boiled pork to stew pot with (A) ingredients, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 2 hours, or until pork is fall-off-the-bone tender. Drain everything but 6 cups of stock and pork ribs.

3) Mix the ingredients at (B). You will need to multiply this amount by 4 times, for a 4 person portion.

4) The resultant paste should look like this.

5)  Return the pork, stock, to stew pot, with napa cabbage and mixed paste, and bring to boil.

6) Add potatoes, and boil for 15 minutes.

7) Just before serving, add perilla leaves to wilt.

8) Salt to taste, and garnish with sesame seeds and freshly milled white pepper.

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