Yang Gui Fei

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We discovered this little restaurant while wandering around Chinatown looking for a quick dinner.  I liked the gentle pun in the name, as the character for Yang was “sheep” instead of  the usual character for the legendary Chinese consort’s surname. Yang Gui Fei specialises in Xi’an cuisine, and is run by Xi An people. We only seemed to hear mainland Chinese accents from the other patrons and had high hopes that the food would be authentic!

As per our usual practice, we ordered a bit more than expected, starting off with some typical Chinese cold starters, such as these pickled long beans.  When they first arrived, I was a bit dismayed by how bland and faded they looked. But looks belay much flavour and zing. The beans were refreshingly spicy and sour,  plus fermentation did wonders to add to its flavour. They were super yummy and also deceptively spicy – on first bite, they were mildly hot but the more I ate the hotter my mouth got and I couldn’t eat more than two in a row before having to cool off my mouth with something else.

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We also had a plate of seasoned enoki mushrooms, similar in its savoury umami seasoning, just not pickled and only mildly spicy. They were a good interlude between bites of beans!

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The star dish of this place had to be the mutton. We ordered the mutton kebabs and also tried out a few chicken ones. These were well-marinated, but the chicken kebabs were definitely juicier and more flavourful than the mutton ones. The mutton ones unfortunately don’t quite match up to what I remember in Xi’an. It all became clear when the proprietress told us that they used New Zealand lamb and not proper grown-up and gamey mutton. Maybe they should change to a Muslim supplier from Tekka market and make it truly Muslim-style like in Xi’an.

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Here’s a close up on the spice mix that goes into the marinade.   Yum!

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The next dish we ordered brought back fond memories from my holiday in Xi An.  “Biang Biang” noodles are thick, flat and very chewy noodles seasoned with a spicy  vinegary dipping sauce. The texture of these noodles are far from the usual slightly limp and soft Chinese noodles. They are the epitome of al dente yet are nothing like any Italian noodle. I don’t know what type of flour they used nor how they developed the gluten in the noodles to get this lovely firm noodle with loads of bite . It was wonderful.Word of warning:  one bowl of “Bian Bian” noodles is plenty for two.

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Yang Gui Fei restaurant
18 Smith Street
Tel: 6100 0629

Stuffed Chicken Wings

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I’d not cooked for a while. It was high time I dusted off some of the old recipes percolating inside my head and update them. One of them was this recipe for stuffed chicken wings. I last made them yonks ago back in my university days and never since had the time nor inclination to make them again.

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The chicken wings are made by taking the wing part and removing the two little bones inside, keeping the skin and meat pretty much intact. Then the cavity is stuffed with an aromatic minced meat mixture and the wings baked till golden all over. Sounds simple to do, but the deboning bit can be very tedious. The trick is patience and taking it slowly by popping the bones out of the joint and slowly cutting the meat off the bones with a pair of kitchen scissors. After getting the knack of one, the rest are easy. Still, it took me about half an hour to finish deboning 10 of these little fellas.

For the filling, I tried to add a bit of Thai flavour by adding kaffir lime leaves and coriander. I’d imagine variations along the lines of adding water chestnut and cloud ear mushrooms for a more Chinese flavour. Or using curry powder and cooked potato for a slightly more local Malay-Indian touch. Try it and go crazy with the variations!

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Ingredients:

200g minced pork
¼ bundle tanghoon, soaked and cut into short lengths
2 dried mushrooms, soaked and chopped fine
1 bunch coriander, chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced very fine
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp corn flour
1 tsp chopped chilli, optional
10 chicken wingsticks, deboned

glaze
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Combine the stuffing ingredients and mix well.
  3. Stuff into the chicken wings and round off the top, being careful to push all the ends of the tanghoon into the meat mixture. This stops it from drying out and burning in the oven.
  4. Combine the glaze mixture and stir till the sugar dissolves. Paint over the mixture on the wings and, if using, the drumlets.
  5. Place onto a foil-lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, turning half way through, till golden brown.
  6. Serve with a squeeze of lime on top.

Makes 10.

    Quick Eats: Bedok North Hawker Centre

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    I like Bedok North Hawker Centre quite a bit because while there’s plenty of good food, it’s also unpretentious and doesn’t have super long queues. I like the ban mian a few stalls down from Joo Chiat Chiap Kee. It has a clear, robust stock that tastes like there’s both pork bone and chicken in it. They use round spinach (bayam) in it, giving the soup a special fragrance. The noodles are decently chewy and don’t get too soggy after sitting for a while. I also like how the ikan bilis and onion bits taste like they’re fried in-house rather than taken from factory-made industrial-sized packs.

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    For dessert, I love the taufa quite a few stalls down. It’s soft and silky and slightly creamy at the same time. I couldn’t ask for more.

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    Bedok North Hawker Centre
    Blk 216 Bedok North St 1

    Secret Eat Revealed: Chinatown Fish-Head Beehoon

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    Remember that place I told you about before? I think it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. This place needs recognition. It’s run by an old couple in a Banda Street food court. Not sure where Banda Street is? It’s the place overlooking the carpark next to the Buddha Tooth Temple, kinda across the road from Maxwell Market.

    I went back there with Delightt and this time we brought our men with us. The fish head beehoon was as good as ever, perhaps better this time as the beehoon was perfectly done. I liked how the soup was still cloudy with no milk added and plenty of good flavour from the fish head and bones. It was hard to eat the fish pieces because tongue had to navigate between fishy grooves to find tasty meat and spit out the spent bones. It was one of the few places where the second visit after so long was better than the first!

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    The nice stallholder auntie recommended chicken with bittergourd and black bean sauce. It was good too! There was plenty of wok hei in the dish and both chicken and bittergourd were well-cooked. The chicken was tender and just cooked through while the bittergourd was nicely braised yet not too soft. The chef has real mastery over his fire here!

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    Come here for good Cantonese fare, just be prepared to wait as there are lots of regulars and the old man at the wok isn’t very quick on his feet.

    Blk 5 Banda Street
    Corner near restrooms

    Diving the Similans: Eating at the Villa After

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    The Vijitt has a beautiful infinity pool to match its beautiful grounds. We admired it every morning at breakfast and had a dip a couple of times. Too bad it wasn’t quite as good as the diving the past week!

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    Food at the resort was very good. I liked the breakfast, the buffet spread was decent and they provided fresh juice to order. DC, however, has higher standards. Good thing the a la carte menu for dinner met his standards! There were two restaurants inside, one the main restaurant looking out at the pool and the other an intimate Thai restaurant in a beautiful house facing the beach. It was this restaurant that had fabulous food. I liked how refined the cooking was.

    Here we’ve got a delicate soup that tasted like a very sophisticated tom yam. It showcased the vibrant taste of fresh herbs and aromatic roots to a T. Didn’t hurt at all of course to have fresh juicy prawns to add to it. The clarity of the flavours was astounding. I’m fairly drooling thinking of it as I type.

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    Another dish was rather oddly named as fermented smoked shrimp. It turned out to be deep fried dried shrimp with deep fried lemon grass bits and peanut, all tossed together with herbs and chilli. While the shrimp was a bit of a chewy-crunchy mouthful, the deep seafood umami flavour permeating this dish really worked. It’s nothing like I’ve had before and a definite re-order. (What am I saying, all the dishes featured here are definite re-orders.)

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    Yet another re-order was the salad of winged bean and shrimp. There’s something magical about the combination of savoury fish sauce, tangy lime juice, seafood and crunchy greens. The topping of dried coconut and fried shallots brought it to another level. What can I say except “yum!”

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    Last dish to feature is the simple yet very skillfully made crab omelette. It was crisp at the edges and still runny in the centre. Of course, the crab was fresh and sweet. It was such a satisfying counterfoil to the rest of the dishes. I could eat here every day!

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    The Vijitt Resort Phuket
    Friendship Beach
    16 Moo 2, Viset Road, Rawai, Muang, Phuket 83130
    Tel: +66 (0) 76 363 600

    A Civilised Lunch at The Marmalade Pantry

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    The Marmalade Pantry is one of those places to go to when I need a civilised lunch where the food and service are consistent, one of those days when I don’t want any surprises yet want the option of being a bit adventurous.

    Having woken up late from a night of whisky, I thought I’d skip breakfast and go straight for lunch then shopping. I went for The Ultimate Beef Burger, medium done. It was a substantial burger, made from scratch not one of those pre-made frozen patties. It had charred cherry tomatoes, pickle and a generous spread of mayonnaise on the soft toasted bun. The french fries were well made, crisp on the outside and softly grainy on the inside. They were soaked in salted water before frying. I prefer them as is so I can sprinkle salt on top instead as I like the little bursts of salt on the tongue better.

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    The burger itself was alright, though I felt that it was slightly too done for medium. Even though there were plenty of juices  oozing out as I cut into the patty, it was somehow rather dry in the mouth. The beef was probably too lean. I also found it too salty and there wasn’t a lot of flavour to it. It tasted rather generic, nothing special.

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    My mum had the Pan Roasted Red Snapper with Almonds [sic] Herb Crust & Chickpea Salad. She liked it a lot. It’s a perfect light lunch, healthy from the fish and vegetables. It was also great that the complex carbs came from chickpea, a better source of protein and fibre than most grains. The fresh fish went well with the mustard in the  herb crust and the squeaky-crunchy sweet peas.

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    For dessert, we had Basil Crepes with Caramelized Bananas. The crepe itself was an almost luminous green from the basil, reminding me of kueh dadar. I was surprised that despite the many flecks of basil in the pancake, there was hardly any basil flavour at all. Nonetheless, the banana and the caramel worked. You can’t go far wrong with soft banana pulp and sweet buttery caramel. The rich vanilla bean ice cream helped a lot too.

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    We rounded off the meal with coffee. Check out the cool fern pattern on my caffe latte. I sipped at it carefully, keeping the pattern until about halfway into the cup. The hot coffee flavoured milk was a nice end to the meal.

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    The bill came up to $82.85. It’s pricey but that’s what you pay for the decent food, genteel ambience and the Orchard road location.


    The Marmalade Pantry

    Unit B1-08 to 11
    Palais Renaissance
    390 Orchard Road
    Singapore 238871
    Tel: 6734 2700