The Best Prime Rib

What do you do when you have big eater coming over for dinner? Cook a prime rib of course! Ours came by special delivery from Huber’s and was reasonably priced considering how gargantuan that wodge of meat was. It was just the right occasion to try out a slow cooked recipe from Serious Eats. I was so amazed by how simple to cook and how amazing the prime rib turned out.

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It arrived at 11am and I quickly fired up my oven to 70 ºC before lovingly massaging the joint with black pepper and sea salt. Once it was ready, I set it on a rack in a tray and bunged it in, setting the alarm for 4 hours later.

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Then I got round to making some herb butters by chopping up some herbs (rosemary at the left front and chervil at the right back) and smushing them with a bit of sea salt into soft butter. The lot was patted into a log and wrapped in cling film and fridged.

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After 4 hours, I checked and the joint wasn’t ready yet. It wasn’t until 6 hours later that my meat thermometer registered a healthy 50ºC and we were ready to get on with the next step. I left it out to rest for a while (uncovered because I was busy with everything else!). It looked terrible for that long wait before F and R turned up.

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But they finally did, and I cranked up the oven to 250ºC and bunged the whole lot in for 10 minutes. The results were beautiful! (And check out how the joint dwarfs my chef’s knife!)

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Look at those Flintstone-worthy slabs of rare meat!

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Here, after having rested a bit, so it got more red.

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We happily apportioned the pieces, not realising at first how freakin’ big each of the intial slices were.

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The most desired part was the end, so that we could get at the yummy burnt bits with crispy fat. The other side was of course completely red.

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Then it was time to eat! We anointed the prime rib with all sorts of goodies like pesto sauce (from our minestrone starter), the herb butters, porcini and red wine sauce made with the beef juices, Dijon mustard, and bits and bobs from our appetisers – marinated roma tomatoes, olives and cured beef tongue. It was all super good with a lovely red that F and R brought.

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The next day brought more joy with the leftovers. I laid cold slices of prime rib over some salad leaves, cooked chickpeas and leftovers from the deli, then drizzled over some dressing made from mustard, balsamic vinegar and a touch of pomegranate molasses. Lovely!

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Here’s the recipe:

1 piece of bone-in prime rib (mine had 2 ribs and weighed almost 3kg)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 70ºC.
  2. Rub the prime rib generously with salt and pepper, then bung in the oven for 4-6 hours.
  3. Check the internal temperature after 4 hours (50ºC for rare, 55ºC for medium rare – anything more and you’re on your own, sorry). It’s unlikely to be ready at this stage, so stick back in the oven and prep the rest of your dinner – cook soup, bake bread or whatever.
  4. When the inside is ready, take out and leave on counter while you crank up your oven to 250ºC or the highest your oven goes.
  5. It should take about 30 minutes or so before your oven gets to the right temperature. Now gather everyone for dinner, have the first course or whatever.
  6. Replace the prime rib in the super hot oven and leave for 10 minutes or almost burnt, whichever is earlier.
  7. Take out and carve.

Feeds 6 big eaters. Leftovers keep nicely for a week, if any longer freeze and it’s still beautiful a month later.

An Indian Dinner: Khansama Tandoori Restaurant and Komala Vilas

A bunch of us decided that we should have a big Indian dinner and we picked out one in Little India. Khansama Tandoori Restaurant is highly rated on Tripadvisor and it was not surprising to see lots of tourists here.

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They had lots of interesting carvings as part of the decor, which adds a lot to the Little India atmosphere, touristy as it may be.

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We started with some drinks – I liked the jaljeera here. It’s a salty, minty lemonade spiked with cumin that’s a bit of an acquired taste. Most drink it expecting a sweet drink and the swamp-like colour doesn’t really add to the appeal. I like its refreshing flavour and change from the usual over-sugared carbonated drinks.

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It’s topped off with crunchy fried dough bits, so you need to eat that quickly before it gets soggy.

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For starters we had a chicken kebab platter with different kinds of marinade. My favourite was a dark green one with spinach in it. The spinach smoothed the spices nicely, paving the way for the main course.

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We also had some side dishes, like the palak paneer, a must-have for me when having anything tandoori. I love the smooth spicy spinach paste that goes so well with the curd cheese.

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We also had a mushroom curry which was OK (I don’t even remember what it is!), at least we got some fibre in the meal.

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The naan was pretty good, but the roti less so. I liked the light texture and fragrance.

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And then came the star of the show – the Sikandar Ran, a whole roasted leg of lamb. It’s hard to see exactly how big it is because they gave us a massive knife to cut the massive leg.

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It was quite an interesting experience to tuck into such a big portion of meat, but I found it a bit tough and poorly seasoned for my taste. The marinade on the outside was mainly just chilli hot and nothing else. A pity given our high hopes.

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Still, some people enjoyed it, like DC. Here he’s happily gnawing on one of the bones, so you can see how big it is.

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Khansama Tandoori Restaurant
166 Serangoon Road
Tel: +65 6299 0300

 

We next headed off for dessert and popped into Komala Villas. Since there wasn’t any space in the restaurant, we took it away and enjoyed it over some TV at Eeyore’s place.

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They were generally sweet and floury and nutty, and we forgot the names once leaving the place. The only truly memorable one was the sour jalebi: see the orange swirled pastry in the picture. I liked how it was like a sweet fried pretzel soaked in sour syrup. Very moreish after a heavy dinner.

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Komala Vilas: Sweets and Savouries
82 Serangoon Road
Tel: +65 6294 3294

Mezzanote Gelato

DC and I were wandering around  Springleaf Estate when we chanced on a charming little gelato place called Mezzanote. It offers a wide range of gelati, not ice cream: gelati are made from milk while ice cream is made from custard, i.e. cream and eggs. Only with gelati can you get milk flavour as ice cream is by default custard flavoured. I immediately chose the fior di latte (meaning “flower of milk” or some such) and was pleased with the gentle and rounded milkiness of the icy treat. Next time, I’ll skip the cone and go for the cup: it’s not worth the extra charge.

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DC wisely had the hazelnut flavour in a cup. It had a lovely aroma and wasn’t too oily or heavy, as some hazelnut ice creams or gelati tend to be. One of the better places around!

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Mezzanote
906M Upper Thomson Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6456 7382

 

 

 

Back to Bali: The River Bridge and Murni’s Warung

The rest of the day in Ubud was spent relaxing and walking around aimlessly. We went to the bridge area of Ubud, just to poke around and admire a steel bridge going across the Campuhan River.

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DC fiddled about with his camera settings while I played his hapless subject.

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But we both agreed that the river really was quite scenic – and we decided to have dinner at one of the places overlooking the river.

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Here’s us going across the bridge to Murni’s Warung.

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It’s a beautiful place built into the cliff carved out by the river, with four or five floors cleverly making use of the space and scenery to create a warm, convivial atmosphere. We explored a bit of the shop on the ground and upper floor, and then proceeded past the ground floor dining area…

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… down to just above the river level to have a lovely dinner enjoying the sounds of the river while sipping our drinks. I had a young coconut with lime juice, and DC had a yummy strawberry tamarind drink.

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Our dinner was sumptuous and very delicious.

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DC had the bebek betutu, a traditional Balinese dish of smoked duck. It came with urap, a firm favourite, and yellow rice. The duck was flavourful and nicely spicy though not chilli hot at all.

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I much preferred my grilled snapper. I don’t know how they grilled it so perfectly, but unlike most grilled fish, this was insanely tender, I don’t even know how they managed to achieve it. I especially liked how it was charred outside so the fish had a yummy smoky flavour. The bacon and onion potatoes and side salad? Gilding the lily.

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After being stuffed to the gills yet again, we headed to another intermediate floor…

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… where we lounged with our post-dinner drinks. Life is good.

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Bali has a special place in my heart – it’s got good food, laidback resorts and lots to do and not do. It’s one of the places that somehow pulls me back even though there’s so much of the rest of the world to explore.

Back to Bali: Babi Guling at Ibu Oka

Pretty much THE reason for going to Ubud was to eat at Ibu Oka’s, made famous by an Anthony Bourdain feature. I’d tried babi guling in a previous trip to Bali but only had a rather slapdash version. This time, I was determined to make it work. Online accounts told me that babi guling must be had early. There was a rather sketchy description online about a market in Gianyar that had the most awesome babi guling evah! The catch was that it was available only from 6.30am to 9am. Inquiries on this famed market babi guling at the front desk of our resort drew a blank, so that went out of the window. Ibu Oka it was!

I was so obsessive about the babi guling that I dreamt that I’d missed it and they were out of pig by the time I got there. I woke with a start at 6am and was pleased to realise that I was awake bright and early for my dose of pig – even for the market version if I only knew where it was. Sadly, DC didn’t share my enthusiasm to chase down a mythical market babi guling for breakfast and then have lunch at Ibu Oka. We settled for just going to Ibu Oka early to try our luck.

Here it is in Ubud Central, taking up one of the corners where the tourist information centre, Ubud market and Ubud palace meet. The sign is unmistakable.

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Sadly, at 9am it had yet to open.

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DC and I took a detour to do our other business in town – poking around at the various woodcraft workshops in the area slightly out of Ubud central. To our surprise, there was another branch of Ibu Oka out here. Likewise, it wasn’t open yet. I contented myself with a picture, wondering which branch (later I found out there are three branches sprinkled in the area) was the best.

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We made it back to Ubud central at the late timing of 10.30am. By then I was getting antsy, convinced that there’d be a mob of babi guling lovers forming such a formidable line ahead that I’d have to turn back in defeat. But no, it was open and there wasn’t a queue! We perused the menu in leisurely fashion and ordered the babi guling pisah, i.e. suckling pig with different parts. Sadly, our request for more skin was turned down. I was shocked that they’d run out of skin even before official opening hours!

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While waiting, we admired the portrait of Ibu Oka, taking pride of place in the shop.

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Then the moment of reckoning came. There was only one shard of skin, which DC and I divided up clinically, eyeing the pieces to ensure that we had judicious portions. There were thick slices of lean meat, fattier slice of rib meat, deep fried intestine, soup and urap, a salad made from toasted coconut, long beans and cabbage. I tried a piece of skin, and while it was crispy from the roasting on its subcutaneous fat, it wasn’t crispy enough. Chinese-style roast suckling pig achieves the shattering crispness much better. I was starting to feel let down already. Then I tried a meat slice and became a believer. You see, the thing about babi guling is that the skin is but a sideshow. The star of the show is really the juicy meat and the marinade and the urap and how all the textures and flavours marry together in a harmonious symphony. I loved how the mellow chilli and various spices like ginger, onion and possibly turmeric and galangal melded beautifully into the rich meaty flavour of the pork. The crunchy vegetables and toasted coconut in the urap added more flavour and bite.

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DC was very enamoured of the blood sausage. Since we were thwarted in our skin bid, we went for more blood sausage and more fried intestines. The blood sausage had a slightly mealy texture from the congealed blood, but the flavouring was robust and I liked the bursty texture of the sausage casing (presumably made from pig intestine lining).

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The deep fried intestine was crispy and yummy, a bit like a bar snack. The soup was surprisingly good. In Singapore, most local places pay scant attention to the soup, often merely thinning out any stock and adding msg to make up for the lack of flavour. Here, the soup was done like soto ayam, just a richer porky version. It was so excellent I’d come here just for its soto babi.

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And what tied the whole meal together was the preserved chilli sauce. It looks innocuous enough with the green chillis, but beware – those are green chilli padi and there are also red chilli padi bits in the mix. It’s not quite a sauce as in the liquid was mainly oil (presumably coconut oil). It was more salted chillis and shallot shards in oil. But what a wonderfully spicy, deeply aromatic hit of chilli that was. We dosed it quite liberally on our babi guling and I was soon gasping for breath, but it was so good I kept going until there wasn’t anymore babi guling left.

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As we left the joint, we realised that a crowd had formed and a fresh pig had been delivered. Now we know that the pig comes from a central kitchen, so not to worry which branch is good. It was quite a spectacle to see the pig being carved up. First, the head was cut off neatly, then the chef slid her knife under the skin…

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… lifted up a corner and pulled off all the skin in a sheet, steam rising voluminously from the meat.

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Then it was time to process the meat into the various parts for the hungry hordes. If we knew that this was the system, we’d have stayed and ordered another serving of pig skin just to see if it was any better. It was just as well that we didn’t – it’s always best to eat your fill and move on. Having more than we could comfortably eat would have compromised our enjoyment.

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There’s always our next visit to Ubud!

Back to Bali: Ubud

Ubud – the famed cultural centre of Bali.

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And instead of exploring the museum, art galleries and temples in the area, we did a cursory walk pace the palace…

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… and ducked into the market, where the action truly is. I was especially sad that we’d already had breakfast at the villa, because there was so much to try in the area. Turn up early so you get a good opening price. The shopkeepers here are very superstitious and tend to give good prices for their first customers. Choose from local herbs and spices (vanilla pods are very cheap, but are far inferior to the Madagascan versions), or little handicraft and spa souvenirs, or basketry. Then haggle, keep smiling and agree on a price. Watch bemusedly as the shopkeeper flicks the your newly handed over bank notes over the rest of the wares for luck. Go past the souvenir shops into the maze and find your way to the basement. That’s where the colour is, where you can wander around marvelling at the vast variety of local fruit and vegetables on offer. Pull up a stool at a food stand if you arrive early enough, otherwise risk trying the colourful iced drinks and coconut-based kueh (local desserts) that have been sitting around for a while.

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After a day wandering around in town, what better is there to do than go for a hearty dinner?

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We’d heard good things about Naughty Nuri’s. A friend who’d just been ate there twice in the trip, the second time because dinner elsewhere was disappointing and they needed something to make up for the poor show. We didn’t try the cocktails, apparently the place does really mean martinis. What we did have was the coldest Bintang beer in Bali. It went so well with the ribs.

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The famous ribs are grilled by the roadside on a surprisingly small grill for a place so jam packed with hungry diners. The ribs were very good – the meat was the right intermediate between tender and chewy, and marinade a straightforward kicap manis (dark sweet soy sauce) base. I liked it, but not enough to like the satay (essentially pork cubes dunked in the same sauce) too. This place seemed a bit one-dimensional to me, but I’d go back for the impossibly cold beers.

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Naughty Nuri’s Warung Ubud
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud
Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 0361 977 547