Diving the Similans: The Black Manta

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It’s a pity, my computer still isn’t fixed so the posts from previous trips are still on hold. At least I still go places occasionally now, so here’s a series of my recent trip to Similan Islands in Thailand.

Get ready for a whole load of blue! What else but diving is there to do when you’re on a boat in the middle of the sea? DC and I liked the Black Manta when we were last at Seven Skies. In fact he was so impressed that practically the next week he’d looked up all the available trips and before I knew it we were booked six months ahead.

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We had days with lovely weather, although some evening showers and the edge of a storm caught us. Some of the dives didn’t have the greatest visibility because of bad weather the day before, but it was still great to get away and be uncontactable for a while.

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It’s a lovely boat from all angles isn’t it? I like how spacious it is. All the cabins have aircon and most are ensuite.  They have a water maker on board so there’s no need to ration water and you can shower as many times a day you like and even rinse your gear with fresh water every day! The food is great (Thai crew) and it’s got a big diving deck so it isn’t at all congested before or after a dive.

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And what did we see below the water? More next post!

An Almost Vegetarian Dinner

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It was time we started eating slightly less fattening food. I attempted to go vegetarian(ish) for a meal or two. A trip to the supermarket got me lovely large king mushrooms, a courgette, mesclun salad and some herbs. The mushrooms ended up under the grill together with a miso-garlic marinade. The courgettes were caramelised and tossed with anchovies and mustard. Substitute capers for the anchovies if you’re going fully vegetarian, I just didn’t have capers in the house. For the couscous, make up some instant stuff with vegetable stock and stir in some chopped herbs. Here I use curly parsley (far cheaper than the Italian flat leaf type and much stronger, go easy). For the salad, I bought some mesclun and mixed in some organic tang oh (chrysanthemum leaves), then cracked in some pistachio (DC’s idea) and tossed in truffled olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It all came together to form a satisfying almost vegetarian dinner.

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Garlic-Miso King Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 king mushrooms
1 tbsp miso paste (I use red miso with konbu here)
1 tbsp dry vermouth (sherry or sake is good too)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Method:

  1. Slice the king mushrooms lengthwise.
  2. Blend the miso, vermouth and garlic till you get a spreadable paste, smear lovingly over the mushroom portions.
  3. Place under a hot grill for about 10 minutes on each side or until the miso paste just about chars. Serve.
  4. Just before eating, scrape off the excess miso because it gets quite salty.

Caramelised Courgette with Chilli

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
1 courgette, chunked
3 shallots, minced
2 tsp brown sugar
chilli padi, minced
2 anchovies, mashed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 sprigs basil, sliced fine

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the courgette pieces on all sides.
  2. Stir in the shallots on low heat and cook till fragrant. Now stir in the sugar and allow to caramelise.
  3. Add in the chilli padi and anchovy, stirring till combined.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the mustard and basil. Serve.

Both recipes serve 2.

Oriole Part Deux

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We went back to Oriole to have a proper meal and were rewarded with excellent starters and mains. The potted crab was a lovely starter. I liked how the firm crab pieces blended well with the mayonnaise and generous amounts of pepper. The contrast with the crisp toasted bread and crunchy aromatic herbs was lovely.

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I had the beef cheek tagliatelle which was fantastic. It was one of the few dishes involving what’s normally a main course repurposed as pasta sauce that actually worked. The rich beefy sauce was absorbed well by the noodles and the mushrooms provided a burst of soft flavour ever so often. A definite reorder.

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Talking about reorders, the risotto was one as we enjoyed our taster of the last one very much. This time it was as good as ever. I think it was a slightly different version from before with a different fish (plus more too!) and asparagus included in it. Very good stuff.

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The dessert was where a bit of disappointment came in. The Eton Mess had overwhipped cream in it and wasn’t particularly special.

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Last of all was the espresso that we had to send back because it was too sour. Unfortunately the replacement espresso came back sour too, so we gave up. Nonetheless, KK says that coffee made by a certain barista is good, so we’ll have to reorder on a day when he’s there.

Oriole Cafe and Bar
96 Somerset Road
#01-01 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 8348

Entre Nous Part Deux

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DC and I revisited some old favourites. At Entre Nous, we tried out the savoury galettes. They’re buckwheat pancakes served most typically with savoury toppings. DC had the ham and tomato while I had the mushroom one. Both were very good. The galette was the same excellent standard as the sweet crepes: super crisp on the outside and still moist on the inside. The tomato and ham topping was pretty decent and made for a satisfying yet light lunch.

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I liked the mushroom filling much better though. It was very rich and, well, mushroomy. The depth of flavour was amazing, even more impressive because it was pure mushroom, probably with plenty of butter, but otherwise unadulterated with meat or truffle oil. Excellent.

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Entre-Nous Creperie
27 Seah Street
Tel: 6333 4671

Dark Double Chocolate Cookies

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Chocolate chip cookies are a perennial favourite and dark double chocolate cookies are even more well received. I make up a batch of these when I want to make the chocolate lovers in my life happy. Feel free to substitute whatever nuts you like, I happened to have pecans around. I can imagine it with dried fruit too, like orange peel.  Try to serve it fresh from the oven if you can. The chocolate oozes in a lovely way.

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Ingredients:
200g flour
120g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
250g butter
200g sugar
120g dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g dark chocolate, chopped
200g pecans, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars till fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat again.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
  5. Fold in chocolate and nuts.
  6. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto the baking tray, spacing about two inches apart. Try to make the dough balls as small as possible. I fit about20 onto each tray.
  7. Bake for about 7 minutes, taking care not to let the cookies burn. It’s a dark cookie as it is, so you have to watch carefully.
  8. Transfer to wire rack to cool and eat as soon as you can touch them without burning yourself. Otherwise, wait till cool and pack in airtight containers and give away.

Makes loads, at least 160 or so.

Quick Eats: Japanese Pasta at Bentendo

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One more in the Japanese series before we head on to another theme. We brought DC’s grandmother to Bentendo because she loves mentaiko. Out of the other mediocre pastas we had, the mentaiko one with ika and shiso was pretty outstanding. I liked how the salty richness of the mentaiko played out against the bracing greenness of the shisho and the soft yield of the raw squid. The seaweed topping added another briny dimension to it. Here’s where every ingredient, including the garnish, worked well to make a creative and very delicious whole.

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The rest of the pastas didn’t fare so well. DC’s uni pasta was too creamy and the uni wasn’t fresh. DC’s grandma loved her mentaiko cream pasta but I found it too rich. We also had a sashimi salad starter that was quite good. The iceberg lettuce was crisp and fresh and the salmon, tuna and tako bits were fairly fresh. Topped by wafu dressing, it was a decent start to the meal. Next time I go, I’ll have the salad and mentaiko shiso pasta, and I’ll check out the Japanese pizzas.

Bentendo
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#03-32/33 Great World City
Tel: 6235 5606

Ramen Showdown: Marutama

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The whole week was a week of ramen cravings for me. This time we went to Marutama, which I’d not had for years. I somehow never made it back to the one at Central because I found the restaurant a bit dingy and cramped for a meetup, plus memories of queues put me off. I quite liked the ambience of the branch at Liang Court. It’s still dark, but much smarter-looking.

We had chashu on the side. It wasn’t too bad, being tender and fatty with the bonus of being charred to order. It’s far too overpriced for the miserable four pieces you get though.

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Now I really liked the aka ramen. It’s so different from other versions as the toppings are some kind of  seasoned chicken ball, coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Also, the broth is made of 12 types of nuts rather than pork stock. Sure, there was still the usual stuff like runny(ish) yolk egg, seaweed and sesame seeds, but here even the noodles were different. They were much thinner than the usual, resembling the instant noodle type of ramen more than the traditional sorts. I enjoyed the freshness of the coriander and lemon, and with the richness of the soup, it’s now my favourite ramen place.

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Having said that, I still need to find a new favourite place for the more typical pork bone ramen. Suggestions anyone?

Marutama Ramen
177 River Valley Road
#02-01/02 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6837 2480