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.

Untitled

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.

IMG_6312

 

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.

IMG_6316

 

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.

IMG_6317

 

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!)

IMG_6320

 

Look at those Flintstone-worthy slabs of rare meat!

IMG_6325

 

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

Untitled

 

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

IMG_6330

 

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.

IMG_6331

 

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.

IMG_6332

 

 

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!

IMG_6337

 

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.

Salta

DC and I spied Salta, an Argentinian restaurant tucked away in a corner, when we wandered round Icon Village. It’s not along the main drag, so it’s not so easy to spot. Look for it in the alley between the artisan bakery and roast chicken place. We started with the empanadas (three for $8). They were somewhat like our local curry puffs, just baked instead of fried, and with beef and capsicum filling instead of curry chicken. It was decent, but not spectacular.

IMG_4578

We then opted for a Parrillada for two, essentially a mixed grill with short ribs, beef skirt, chicken, black hog, mixed sausage, lamb rack, grilled vegetables and potatoes ($81). It was an incredible amount of food, with two large pieces of each type of meat. They did the beef just as we like it – rare. I like how the meat was very straightforward, tasting uncomplicatedly of good meat. I liked how well they grilled the chicken thigh so that the skin was wonderfully crisp. Very good.

IMG_4583

There wasn’t space in the main platter for the vegetables. They were grilled perfectly and made a great foil to the meat. I don’t even remember the potatoes, but they weren’t needed as there was so much food!

IMG_4584

Needless to say, we hadn’t room for dessert. More’s the pity since I have a soft spot for dulce de leche. We need to go back.

SALTA Argentine Parrilla + Grocer
Icon Village
12 Gopeng Street #01-56
Tel: +65 6225 8443

A Cambodian Bug Encounter

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I’d known of this Cambodian place for a while but just never got round to trying it out until now. We started with a fairly standard pomelo salad that I thought tasted a bit too weird for my liking. While it had almost Thai flavours of fishy smoked fish, some sweet, some sour, and some chilli, it was fairly toned down in terms of the four standard flavours. There was a herb in it that I didn’t appreciate – it was a bit too earthy and bitter-smelling (though not actually tasting bitter at all), a bit like off garlic.

IMG_3569

The other starter was much better: steamed minced pork paste with preserved fish roe. It was very unusual, like a cross between a warm pate and meatloaf. I scooped spoonfuls of the smokey, fishy meat mixture onto the raw veggies and enjoyed the almost salted egg-like flavour. I never knew that eggplant could be eaten raw and I happily walloped the spongey vegetable with the meat. It went surprisingly well.

IMG_3571

DC saw the writeup on crickets and tarantulas on the wall and immediately wanted to try them. I told him I could probably stomach a cricket or two rather than a hairy spider leg so he ordered this off-menu. My heart sank when the deep-fried crickets arrived. The fellas were fried to a dark crisp – so much so that their carapaces were almost black, making them look like skinny cockroaches. Ewwww. Feeling slightly queasy, I attempted a few times to spear one with my fork but failed as the little buggers (literally!) were fried so hard and crisp they were impossible to spear. DC and I picked out one that looked least like cockroach and I gingerly ate its thorax and abdomen. Honestly, it didn’t taste like much aside from deep-fried. There was a very slightly sour aftertaste but not much. So there was half a cricket in my stomach and the other half – black and winged – still sitting on my plate. I hid it in my rice and hastily chewed it up, and swallowed. Then I looked up and saw DC calmly, and with great enjoyment, crunching up the rest of the plate of crickets. This is the reason why I’m a wuss and I’m with this very brave man with the appetite for adventure. If he can put up with bug-eating, who knows what other crap he can put up with!

IMG_3567

OK so enough with the wussing out – the last dish was their signature dish of fish amok. I’d tried it in Cambodia before and was expecting something thick yet still fluid, somewhat like Thai green curry. This version was like a non-spicy otak. The flavours were very similar and the fish was moulded in a slightly runny coconut custard. DC and I both liked the delicate flavours and the soft-firm texture of the fish. Thumbs up!

IMG_3572

We didn’t manage to get dessert as the banana sago dish I wanted wasn’t available. Service here is generally very sincere and warm, though slightly dopey and haphazard. Be patient with them and you’ll have a good experience.

Khmer Delight
922 East Coast Road
Tel: 6449 1529

July in Vietnam: The Imperial Capital of Hue

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

It was early morning when I got into Hue and hopped out of the night bus. A lovely long day of sightseeing across the Perfume River awaited.

00111

Here in Central Vietnam, there was a slight change in personality. Somehow I felt that people weren’t quite as hardened by war and that commerce, tourism and the free market had penetrated somewhat.

00113

The first stop was the Imperial Enclosure, a large citadel built by the Vietnamese emperors. These were largely in the Chinese style, given the vast influence exerted by their vast northern neighbour. First, I had to get past the outer moat.

00121

The walls surrounding the Enclosure were thick earthen ones with squat yet somehow very fitting gates and gatehouses built into the packed earth.

00115

And then there were the grand linkways between the various buildings topped by intricate carvings and prosperous sayings.

00120

The buildings themselves were very grand. Again, the strong Chinese influence was unmistakable, particularly in the Thai Hoa Palace, a receiving hall for the emperor.

00119

Further towards the back of the Enclosure were little residences of a slightly less grandiose nature, like the Truong San Residence, recently rebuilt after being devastated in the war. The pretty garden with rockery and pond added lots of charm to the place.

00136

I liked the little details I saw while wandering through the city in miniature. Looking up at the eaves of gates, I wondered why the decorations were made that way, whether for good luck or merely for ornamentation, perhaps to please the whim of a favoured concubine.

00134

Other decorations were more for impressing visitors, like this stone qilin (unicorn).

00123

There were also old cannon left behind from the old days. I wonder whether these were just for show or they really were meant for battle.

00116

Nonetheless, these weren’t spared the Fun with English sign of “No laying sitting on the selics.” Evidently done by someone with poor copyrighting skills.

00117

Outside the enclosure but still within the compound of the ancient city, there was plenty of living city. People carried on their daily business amidst the backdrop of beautiful lotus pond fringed by banana trees.

00133

After walking round imagining what life in ancient Hue would be like, I went to Y Thao Garden, a restaurant that specialised in imperial Hue cuisine. It had a little garden in the style of the imperial palace.

00132

The menu here is a Viet version of the degustation menu, with lots of little course that never quite seem to end. The only problem for a one-person meal was that the little courses weren’t as little as expected, as evidenced by this starter of deep-fried spring rolls masquerading as feathers atop a pineapple-carrot phoenix.

00125

Then came the less highly decorated poached prawns with salt and pepper.

00126

Followed by a slightly greasy but very yummy pancake called banh khoai. It was stuffed with meat and beansprouts and dipped in a peanut-based sauce.

00127

Next came a meat salad of sorts, a bit like the Lao/Thai larb gai. Combined with herbs and topped with ground peanuts, this aromatic mixture was eaten by scooping some up on a crunchy prawn cracker.

00128

I so full I was about to give up when the rice arrived. I thought it was going to be a run of the mill fried rice but boy was I wrong. This appeared to be fully vegetarian. The rice was cooked in a lotus leaf  with carrot, lotus seeds, black fungus and other vegetables. The fragrance of the dish blew me away. I don’t know what they did to make it taste so good but they sure did the right thing.

00130

Dessert was slightly less inspiring. There was only one, masquerading as table flowers. They’ve changed with the times and use plastic flower stems as the base, sticking on little soft pastry desserts. The filling was yellow mung bean, which was encased in a soft glutinous rice pastry, then painted over with some glossy jelly. It was pretty but not particularly tasty. Nonetheless, it was overall a great introduction to Hue imperial cuisine.

00131

Y Thao Garden
D Thach Han
Hue, Vietnam

[edited to include name and address of restaurant]

15 Minute Stir-Fry Dinner

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

When I’m tired from a hard day’s work but don’t want to cop out by having instant noodles, I go the wholesome route by doing a quick stir-fry. This time, a quick run through the supermarket got me some organic choy sum, mixed agro-tech mushrooms, ginger and some pork shoulder. Once I got home, I washed and cut the vegetables quickly, then sliced the mushrooms, ginger and pork. (I can never be bothered to wash them.) That takes about 10 minutes and then the stir-fry itself takes 5 minutes. If there’s leftover rice in the fridge, then a 2 minute microwave sorts out the rice. If not, it’s a 5 minute boil of noodles. No, the minutes don’t add up to 15 because a lot of them are done simultaneously. After that short time of quick work, a piping hot and very home-cooked satisfying dinner.

IMG_0177

Ingredients:
1 tbsp oil
6 thin slices of ginger
handful mushrooms, cut into chunks
small piece pork, sliced
good splash Chinese shaoxing wine or dry sherry
salt to taste
soy sauce to taste

Method:

  1. Heat your wok over the highest possible flame. Coat the wok with the oil and allow to get as hot as you dare. Make sure all your ingredients are ready.
  2. Slide in the ginger (gingerly!) and stir. Just before the ginger burns, toss in the pork. Stir rapidly till just about cooked, then add the mushrooms and keep stirring furiously. Now add the vegetables and keep going till the leaves are completely wilted.
  3. Splash in the Chinese wine and add salt and soy sauce to taste. Turn off the heat and serve over rice or noodles.

Serves 1.

Basilico Buffet

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

It was the last big meal of the festive season and boy did we have a big one. My aunt loves hotel buffets and she treated Mum, Dad and me to lunch at Basilico at the Regent. It’s an Italian spread with some local food to supplement, and a very good spread it was! I apologise for the presentation in the photos because they were obviously assembled by greedy me.

Let’s have a look at the appetisers first. There was a whole range of seafood salads, from prawn to squid to seafood. Avoid the mussels and scallops unless you like tasteless frozen jumbo ones. There was also smoked salmon and boiled crab parts (the knobbly, slightly bristly alien thing in the left foreground is a cracked open crab claw). On the vegetable front, there were grilled asparagus, marinated radicchio (bitter but very good) and marinate artichoke. There was also a decent beef carpaccio and the most excellent burrata ever. I ditched the mozzarella for the caprese salad and replaced it with the soft, yielding and beautifully creamy Puglian cheese.

IMG_0042

The breads were pretty good too. Aunt loved them. I especially digged how delicately beautiful the zucchini on this not-pizza bread looked. But I stayed clear to make space for the cold meats.

IMG_0043

There’s a nice selection of cold meats here. It was mainly pork with just one beef mortadella with pistachio that I didn’t fancy. The rest were salamis and various types of pancetta (oooh fatty lovely cured pork). And of course the star: parma ham with melon. Coupled with pickles on the side including tuna- and pesto-stuffed pimento, olives and cornichons, this was very very good. Oh, and don’t forget the extra serving of burrata on the side.

IMG_0044

Next, I went for the salad. Don’t scoff at the salad here because the leaves were fresh and pert (I hate having to pick out wilted brown bits off my plate), but mostly because of the truffle dressing. Sure, it’s just truffle-infused olive oil but what a treat! I adored the subtle earthiness of the truffle contrasted with good balsamic vinegar plus crunchy greens. It helps that I like rocket and raddichio too, the bitterness added a whole new dimension to it.

IMG_0046

Onwards to the soup! The mushroom soup is rich, not thick, and redolent with truffle. Very yummy because the truffle was again very subtle so it complemented rather than overpowered the mushroom flavour. Excellent stuff.

IMG_0047

You’ll notice that I didn’t have any real mains. I’m more of a nibbly appetiser type and I nibbled at Dad’s roast beef (passable), lamb (excellent) and squid ink pasta with tomato sauce (very very good!). Getting star mention is the roast pork belly. It was melt-in-mouth good though pity the skin was soft, I need my crisp crackling! I find that buffet mains tend to be a bit of a let down because they need to be kept hot and get stale or overcooked. The mains were fairly decent but not worth writing about.

The same goes for the desserts. They were all passable. I liked the plum tart and the caramel gelato. Other than that, the cheese did far better.

Cheese in small portions looks terrible indeed, but that was all I could handle by the time I ate my way through the preceding few plates of food and picked at Dad’s plate. There were two types of pecorino, of which one had a fantastic nutty flavour and it had bits of salt crystals that crunched just so in the mouth (just too bad I can’t remember the name). I liked the smoked ricotta which tasted, well,smoked. There were a few other hard ones, and of course my beloved burrata. Accompanying these were various preserves. I remember a lemon marmalade, different types of preserves with mustard, quince jelly and a very lovely fresh tasting plum jelly. There were quite a few types of honey too. I especially liked the truffle one. Odd how this buffet seemed to feature quite a bit of truffle and odd how I don’t normally like much truffle. Just as well that this was a buffet so they were more lighthanded with the truffle.

IMG_0048

Overall, an excellent outing with far more hits than misses. It was worth the distended tummy and a fitting start to the new year!

Basilico
1 Cuscaden Road
Level 2 The Regent Singapore
Tel: 6725 3232

March in Laos: Eating in Luang Prabang

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Laos in general and Luang Prabang in particular had lots of great food. Siamesecat and I started off one misty morning with a glass of thick, sweet and strong coffee chased down with a glass of steaming hot tea. Sitting on a wooden bench watching the morning bustle while sipping hot robust coffee was one of those subliminal moments of the trip.

00122

After having our caffeine and sugar fix, we table hopped to the next stall and tucked into the typical breakfast of foe (yup, almost exactly like Vietnamese pho). I don’t know how they make it so tasty, but thin flat rice noodles with hot broth, topped with herbs and raw vegetables to your preference hit the spot for me every day.   This morning the noodles came with pork strips and tomato. I could have noodles three times a day and not get sick of it. The trick was to experiment with the toppings provided at the table. They typically have salt, sugar, msg and chilli powder but there’s normally lime, basil, coriander, mint, sweet chilli sauce, various types of belachan (fermented shrimp paste) and fish sauce. I especially liked trying out the pongy variations of belachan at the different places.

00120

Foe is normally served in really small portions, which was fine with us because it gave us all the more reason to snack along the street. Here I’m stuffing my face yet again at a barbecue stand selling grilled animal parts like spicy minced pork patties, water buffalo jerky and belly pork. It was all mmm good.

00127

For lunch, we again had noodles, the one here a beef version with popped rice cracker-cakes on the side. If you look carefully you’ll spot the two small tubs of belachan on the table. One was the typical shrimp one and the other made of tiny river crabs. We noticed a lot of Lao people take a chilli padi, dip it in belachan, take a chomp and double dip it while waiting for their noodles. I guess the heat from the chilli kills the germs.

00140

Heavily fortified by all this food, Siamesecat and I proceeded to wander the streets. It was evening when we came across this vampire-phobic cat lying on a bed of garlic. It was obviously bed time.

00114

It looked incredibly satisfied at the end of that yawn!

00113

As the sun began to set, Siamesecat and I decided that we really should have something quite special. While we both loved noodles and never got tired of them, we had to try the slightly fancier food too.

00115

We found a restaurant along the Mekong and enjoyed the view while waiting for our food.

00118

This place served mainly set menus catering to tourists. We figured that it was as good as any other. Not having any locals to take us to truly authentic places, at least this would allow us to try a bit of everything.

00116

The set dinner started with watercress salad, a fresh minty salad with sharp watercress and other herbs dressed in a type of mayonnaise. Then it progressed to dried pork sausage with very spicy buffalo skin dip. The pork sausage was like a slightly less fatty salami with lovely smoked overtones while the dip had strips of rather tough buffalo hide bound by a fiery chilli paste. Crispy sheets of dried riverweed with sesame seeds helped to balance out the fire but the extremely spicy beef stew didn’t help things out.

00117

Siamesecat and I then hit the night market for incredibly cheap buys like a beautiful silk and cotton mix pair of fisherman pants for about USD2.50. There were pretty handicrafts and all sorts of ethnic and hill tribe knick knacks on sale. Apparently a lot of these items were brought over the border to Thailand for sale in their own tourist markets.

I stopped to buy something that couldn’t be exported easily to Thai tourist markets: more food. Supper that night was baguette filled with ping kai (barbecued chicken) and lettuce. It was up to me to choose my sauces again. This time it was at least three kinds of chilli sauce, two of which had some kind of fermented seafood incorporated within, and two types of soya sauce. Amazing.

00053

August in China: Life in a Tulou

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Despite the gawking tourists, life goes in as usual inside a tulou. People move in and out of the place, though I suspect more out than in given the lures of big city lights for the young ‘uns.

CIMG3182

Young and old still work at the main cash crop of the area, green tea.

CIMG3194

They pick through the dried leaves that come out of special tea leaf dryers.

CIMG3198

They also raise rather cute but slightly feral puppies. These puppies were gamboling about merrily by the tulou well until a villager walked over with some bloody off cuts of meat and casually tossed it at them. Predictably, the puppies tore at the meat with great gusto. I’d taken out my camera to shoot the meat fest but by the time it turned on and focussed, all the meat was gone and all that was left was five puppies with bloody mouths. They looked at me rather hopefully but I was afraid to pet them lest they think my hand was round two of lunch!

CIMG3210

In another part of the tulou lay some cuddly creatures on the other end of the equation. I’m sure these cute white bunnies weren’t raised purely for the kids’ enjoyment. They were mighty adorable though. I wonder how the villagers cook them!

CIMG3181

August in China: Food in Chengdu

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

The first pit stop for food was at Mr Bunglez favourite noodle place opposite his building. It has a rather impressive steamer at the front of the shop selling bao and other steamed goodies to supplement the noodles.

CIMG2836

The star of this little place surely had to be the noodles. There were three types: the regular thin lamian type, the flat type like meepok or fettucine, and the large flat sheets like ravioli sheets or mee hoon kway. They were served according to weight, so you could order one, two or three jin of the good stuff. For us two Singaporeans embracing the low-carb craze, we opted for one jin servings. I worked my way through the various flavours and on several occasions out-ate Mr Bunglez by ordering seconds. I did, however, concur with him that the best variation was the lajiang mian (hot sauce noodle) with minced pork and the best chilli sauce ever. It was complexly savoury, with slow burn chilli and the almost menthol kick of huajiao (Szechuan peppercorns). This stuff was so addictive I ate a portion practically every day there.

CIMG2838

Not all Sichuan food is spicy, case in point being the tomato-egg noodles at this famous joint further away from the town centre. Here, it’s a simple affair of noodles in a tomato broth topped with a fried egg. There’s something about the combination of sweet-savoury tomato and oily fried egg that really hits the spot after a night of clubbing.

CIMG2833

Of course there’s also the street food. Here’s me with a stick of barbecued tofu coated with chilli powder and msg. It probably pickled half my insides and made me lose a handful of hair with the amount of sodium on it, but what’s street food if not satisfying and unhealthy?

CIMG2807

And of course Mr Bunglez took me to an upmarket place for authentic Sichuan food. Oh my, mapo tofu and shuizhu yu are such revelations done the right way! Authentic mapo tofu is done without minced meat and has liberal lashings of chilli powder and huajiao. I don’t know how they do it, but the depth of flavour and contrast with the soft smooth tofu was simply awesome.

Shuizhu yu (literally: water-cooked fish) is a complete misnomer. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous-sounding name. Fish slices come in a vat of boiling chilli oil. It’s so covered with dried chillis and huajiao that it’s hard to spot the fish under it all. Again, the combination of chilli oil and numbing huajiao practically anaesthesized my tongue, but you know what they say about painkillers and addiction!

CIMG2914

Finally, there’s the mala huoguo (spicy numbing hot pot) which most people would translate as steamboat. I grew up eating steamboat Cantonese style in which the thinly sliced morsels were cooked in light broth made with chicken and pork bones. Here in Chengdu, mala huoguo is more a pot of chilli oil with a small ladleful of broth in it rather than broth with a bit of oil on it. This way, the raw morsels are pretty much boiled in chilli oil. After boiling each slice of meat in the numbing hot chilli oil (of course there are huajiao inside, this is Sichuan food!), I dipped it into my bowl of xiangyou (fragrant oil), a concoction of sesame oil, chopped coriander and a good dose of rich black vinegar. Of course, the wimpier you are the more vinegar you add. At first the morsels aren’t spicy at all, since the xiangyou washes off most of the spice. As I ate, I found the food getting spicier and spicier. The xiangyou was obviously soaking up the chilli and huajiao. Shortly, I felt the familiar addictive anaesthesized sensation on my tongue. Then I started sweating and soon after, I was gasping and pleading for peanut milk to soothe the spice. Needless to say, it was a fantastic meal. Sorry no pictures this time. I was too distracted to take pictures of the food!