Hajah Maimunah

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Hajah Maimunah is the grandmummy of nasi padang places. It’s got lots of very excellent stuff. Make sure you get there early so you get the best selection. There’s always  a queue, so try to avoid the peak lunch period. The day we went, the stars of the meal were the grilled parrotfish and the tahu telor. The parrotfish was done to perfection as parrotfish is very often overcooked. Here, the firm flesh that so easily goes tough and rough was just yielding and incredibly fresh and sweet. Coupled with the kicap manis with chilli and lime juice, the fish was all I really needed. But wait! There was the tahu telor. The tower of good quality taukwa was deep fried till crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It was another triumph of deepfry and sweet sauce.

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Other good things of note: begedil, grilled chicken with sambal, sayur lodeh. The begedil was soft and flavourful, I always love these potato patties. The grilled chicken with sambal chilli was tender and the sambal full of complex spices. The sayur lodeh had heaps of tender vegetables and very yummy tempeh inside. The beef rendang was good too, with an incredibly aromatic rempah, the only downside was that the meat could have been a lot more tender.

Another excellent thing about the place is the incredibly array of desserts there. There are quite a few different sweet soups like green bean soup and boiled bananas in coconut milk. We didn’t have room for that and took away some kueh-kueh. There’s such a mind-boggling variety there. All I can say is that all the ones I tried were good!

Go try other dishes there and let me know what else is good!

Hajah Maimunah
20 Joo Chiat Road #01-02
Tel: 6348 5457

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Skinny Pizza

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Skinny Pizza is a great place for me to pretend that I’m far away from the office. It’s a bit pricey but it’s probably as far from the Suntec Food Court as you can get. The downside though is that it’s right next to Strip, and DC’s overactive imagination kept thinking about fur flying over the low partition!

The pizzas here are very filling, it helps to share with friends! Even though the pizza base is very thin naan bread, the rich toppings make it incredibly filling. The best ratio for me is two people to one pizza. At least that way there’s a chance for some side dishes like the yummy sausage.

This time, however, there were three of us and we went for two pizzas instead. First up was the mushroom and truffle pizza. Here the mushroom veloute was smooth, rich and deep and with a punch of earthy truffle flavour. The onion helped cut through the earthiness and bitter herby rocket is always a plus in my book. However, after a slice of this I was ready for something else. It’s not something you’ll want to have loads of at one go.

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I felt that the squid ink base pizza fared much better. While not being particularly original, here was where the freshness of the ingredients and flavour combinations made in heaven really worked. The squid and prawn coated with tomato salsa and fresh flat-leaf parsley burst with seafood and herb sweetness. Needless to say, that was the star of the day.

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Other pizza flavours of note are the Provence and Ratatouille flavours which are both kinda similar. Pretty decent though.

I also like the apple cider here. It’s sweet without being overly so and is nice and light: a bit like dry sparkling apple juice. Like they say in the menu, it’s a great complement to the pizza.

Skinny Pizza
#01-002 Suntec City Galleria
Tel: 6333 9774

Saboten: Finally a Contender for Tonkichi’s Title

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I was thwarted yet again by the long queue outside the tonkotsu ramen place at Parco Marina Bay and opted to give Saboten a go instead. This chain from Shinjuku seems like a slighter more upmarket version of Tonkichi. Bizarrely enough, its name means “cactus” and it was chosen to represent vitality of all things. Go figure.

Anyhow, the free flow of finely shredded cabbage and yummy salad dressing made me very happy from the beginning. The cabbage was fresh and the two dressings so yummy I couldn’t quite decide which was better. The black stuff was soy, vinegar and yuzu dressing and the creamy brown one a sesame-based one. I ended up mixing the two so the salty soy-yuzu one was ameliorated by the creamy sesame. What a promising start!

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I went for the curry loin. The loin came with an immense amount of rice and curry sauce. Just too bad that the curry sauce was very authentically Japanese because it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Thankfully, DC was there to save the day and he appreciatively slurped up quite a bit of it on my behalf. Now the loin was very tasty, made from fresh pork and fried to perfection. I liked how the fried panko crumb bits had some heft to it, matching the pork nicely. This is not a dish for dieters as the loin was rimmed with a fairly substantial layer of fat. It gave the meat an interesting gradation from meltingly tender near the fat to substantial and almost tough towards the outer part. All good in my book!

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DC had the oyako don and he liked it. In his words, it was sticky and sweet. The meat was tender and flavourful, just too bad that the panko crumbs were a bit soft by the time it got to him. Special mention has to be made at this point for the pickles. While they don’t come free flow, the freshness and quality really shone through. I finished them in a flash and was dismayed when the waiter apologetically told us that they had to charge for extra if we wanted more. Oh well.

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At least there was dessert to compensate: green tea ice cream in nicely chilled bowls. Not bad, though we were there for the tonkatsu, not the ice cream!

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Saboten
#P3-01 Parco Marina Bay, Millenia Walk
Tel: 6333 3432

Guest Post: DC Dives Redang – Last Dive and Some Clean-Up

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For our last dive, Tim took us to a coral bommy sticking out in the middle of the sea. He told us that it had very nice soft and colourful coral that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the other Redang dive sites. We exited the boat and dived down to the coral bommy. We immediately found a very pretty pair of lionfish down there.

two lionfish

However, we were also dismayed to find a large stray net had draped itself over the beautiful table coral! Immediately we swung into action, tearing away the net and trying not to damage the coral in doing so.

net clearing

It was really cool how everyone was willing to forgo their dive and carry out a clean-up operation without any prompting. No words needed to be said here – it’s the duty of every diver to do their best to clean up the dive environment, and stray nets are some of the worst bits of trash left by humans in the sea. Left unattended, such nets will kill the coral, trap fish and other sea creatures and even entangle unsuspecting divers. Disposing of the net was the only decent thing to do.

Tearing off a net’s pretty hard though, especially without gloves. Due to the encrustation, the net can be embedded with sharp objects that will tear at the skin if you’re not careful. After a while, we also had to get the knife out to remove some of the more stubborn bits of netting.

net clearing - knife out

We worked for many minutes to clear the net, but eventually the table coral was finally free of the man-made menace.

net clearing - done

It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I ended my final dive in Redang. I’d accomplished something good that day.

Redang is a great place with some nice dive sites. Well worth a return visit!

Guest Post: DC Dives Redang – More Lessons and Funny Things

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For my introductory deep dive, Tim decided to make things a bit more interesting and took down a raw egg to show the effects of water pressure. On the surface, air pressure = 1 atm (atmospheres). For every 10 metres depth, the effect of the water pressing down on us increases by another 1 atm, so at 30 metres depth the pressure is 4 atm. What this means is that an egg, cracked at a deep enough depth, will retain its round yolky shape in the water. Like so.

intact yolk

It was quite an interesting science lesson, and it was quite fun to bat the yolk ball back and forth between us. Unfortunately, we got a bit overenthusiastic and after a while the water pressure was unable to compete against the squishy strength of our hands. The yolk broke and made quite a mess in the water.

burst eggyolk

Lesson over, we got round to some nice diving. One of my favourite photographic subjects are pufferfish. There was a nice specimen hugging the reef that day.

giant puffer mouth agape

It always cracks me up to see pufferfish. It’s hard to imagine funnier-looking fish. And if you ever imagined a football swimming through the water, that’s how they swim. We also came across a juvenile boxfish, which is part of the same family as the pufferfish. The poor little guy was petrified by us, and did its best to hide in the coral for protection. When he grows up, he isn’t going to be much bigger either!

juvenile boxfish

Guest Post: DC Dives Redang – Night Dive

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The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course comprises several specialty dives, but the main reason why people take it is to dive deeper than 18 metres (up to 40 metres for a qualified advanced diver) and to do night dives. I love night dives. Once you get past the spookiness of utter blackness surrounding the nimbus of your torch, you get to enjoy a whole multitude of sealife that you can’t ordinarily see during the daytime, as well as a whole set of different behavioural patterns. Because of the pitch-black nature of the surroundings, camera flashes also fire at maximum efficacy, which makes for very beautiful photos. For my first night dive, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

anemone - night

See how the flash brings out the beautiful purple highlights of the anemone? Another example of the vibrant purple can be seen in this picture of a flibonella.

flibonella - night

WS also uncovered a cute false clownfish that was outside its protective anemone home.

false clownfish open - night

The poor little critter soon realised that it was attracting unwanted attention, and ducked into its home for cover…

flase clownfish hiding - night

… until it was completely covered by the anemone’s stinging tentacles.

false clownfish hidden - night

Nighttime also brings out the ambush predators, such as this spiny scorpionfish. The sharp spines on its back contain a poisonous toxin that can really hurt.

spiny scorpionfish - night

We also saw this beautiful, and aptly-named twinspot lionfish.

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Overall, this was a great introduction to night diving.

Guest Post: DC Dives Redang – First Stage

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After much nagging, I finally persuaded DC to do a guest blog. Let’s see what diving’s like from a different perspective! – WS

We decided to go diving a bit closer to home. We’d heard good things about Pulau Redang and decided to give it a try, and scheduled a five-day holiday to dive there. Just for a change, we decided to fly to Pulau Redang instead of taking the usual overland route. The plane, an old De Havilland propellar plane, leaves from Seletar airport and flies directly to the brand new airstrip at Redang. Needless to say, the thought of flying in an old prop plane raised some rather interesting risk analysis over whether flying was more dangerous than Malaysia’s notoriously unpredictable roads. This wasn’t helped by a thunderstorm that delayed the take-off of the plane by one hour!

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However, once we got over the extra bumpiness of the flight and the strange noise of the propeller blades, we managed to get quite comfortable and true to form, we were soon fast asleep and only woke up when we landed at Redang airport. The airport itself is brand new, so brand new in fact that the mandatory fire station wasn’t ready yet. The good news about was that immigration was very fast, given that there was next to no airport building.

From the airport, we caught a quick taxi ride and speedboat to the resort. RedangKalong resort is a PADI 5-star resort with a private beach. The chalets are basic but clean and have hot running water and air-conditioning. The management, headed by A.B. Lee and his brother Tim, are living legends in the Malaysian diving community.

Resort

Once we were there, we settled in for the night and woke up the next morning for our first dive. Being as it was my first dive since my open water exam 5 years ago, I was feeling understandably nervous. However, I was in good hands (my three other diving buddies consisted of two instructors and a rescue diver) and I was soon comfortable in the water. We were soon greeted by the magnificent sight of a school of bumphead parrotfish leaving their nighttime perches to feed.

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Each parrotfish was about 2 to 3 feet long. It was totally awesome to see them glide slowly and regally through the water. It was like watching a royal procession.

Shortly after that, we came across the resident nurse shark in its cave…

nurse shark

… as well as a school of juvenile chevron barracuda.

school of barracuda

It was a fine start to the holiday. So fine, in fact, that I decided that I just had to do my advanced diving course.