Modern Thai at Kha

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Hort Park is a special place for DC and me. We go there regularly but never quite during dinner time till this one time we went to Kha, a modern Thai restaurant. It’s run by the same person who does boutique hotels, one of them being Jia in Hong Kong. It’s cute how the names of the two places are linked: “jia” means “home” in Mandarin while in Cantonese, it’s pronounced “ka”. In Thai, kha is a modifier word for females to use at the end of a sentence to make it polite. (The equivalent for males is “khup”.) What a clever way to name the restaurant. I like!

I was pleasantly surprised already when they served the complimentary appetiser. Instead of the typical prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce, they gave us popped rice biscuits with red curry sauce. It made for a zingy start to the meal.

IMG_3245

We ordered two appetisers and a main so that there’d be space for dessert. First was the crispy catfish with sweet pork and mango salad. It was very good – tangy and slightly spicy with plenty of texture. I’ve always liked the crispy floss-like texture of catfish done this way. They did right not to mess with the classic combination of catfish and young mango strips. I also liked the extra crunch of the peanuts but felt that the pork wasn’t necessary.

IMG_3246

Our second appetiser was banana flower salad with young coconut and chilli. I didn’t like this one as much. It still had the classic sweet-sour-spicy combination so characteristic of Thai salads, but I felt that the texture of banana flower didn’t lend itself well to a salad as it was too “siap siap” – you know that nasty tannic texture, a bit too sappy? The young coconut helped a little but didn’t help much to give interest for flavour. Interesting idea that flopped.

IMG_3248

The main we shared was very good! It was baked half sticky chicken stuffed with coriander and lemongrass, paired with stir fried pineapple rice. The sticky chicken was marinated in some kind of sweet dark sauce hence the stickiness from all that sugar. It tasted Asian but not quite vehemently Thai. The meltingly tender chicken paired nicely with the pineapple rice for a very safe, crowd-pleasing main. I liked how they used some unpolished rice to add flavour and texture. Good call.

IMG_3251

For dessert, we went for the baked pumpkin custard with coconut ice cream. The pumpkin custard is very typically Thai. This version was very nicely made, with smooth silky and not too sweet custard. It went very well with the rich coconut ice cream, a very nice end to the meal.

IMG_3255

Too bad the drinks weren’t as good. We wanted to enjoy the view outside and had our post-dinner drinks there. They tasted as bad as they looked. Don’t drink the aromatic pear mojito – the pear was somehow oxidised and brown; it left a very grainy feel in the mouth. The khao lao rum looked less bad and tasted OK. It was just another sweet drink. Both were very weak, so Kha is not a place for getting smashed.

IMG_3261IMG_3262

My verdict? A nice place for a romantic meal, just skip the drinks. I hear that they are moving soon. It’s a pity as the space is really quite lovely. Check it out soon!

Kha Restaurant
33 Hyderabad Rd
Tel: 6476 9000

Apricot Upside Down Cake

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Last thing to top off the festive season. Here’s an apricot upside down cake from a recipe I found online. It was incredibly yummy, so I made it again for the family Christmas party, this time with nectarines. Practically any kind of vaguely soft fruit will do. I’d like to try it with pineapple or pisang rajah (local banana) next. It’s easy, it’s pretty spectacular, it’s very tasty, what’s there not to like?

I needed a pan that can go from stove to oven, so my all-metal WMF pan worked very well for this. I’d almost junked it because normal cooking just kept sticking to the pan. With the buttery caramel topping, there’s no fear at all of anything sticking here.

IMG_0011

Ingredients:

Caramel topping
50g butter
170g brown sugar
10 small apricots or nectarines, stoned and halved

Cake
2 tbsp yogurt
½ cup milk
200g flour
¾ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
100g butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 drops almond extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Make the caramel topping by melting the butter in the pan. When the butter has melted fully, reduce to low heat and sprinkle the brown sugar over evenly. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes. The sugar will start to melt and turn a bit darker. When most has turned darker, take it off the heat. At this point, there’d still be plenty of sugar crystals still visible. Carefully place the apricot halves cut side down onto the caramel. Be very careful because it’s very hot and can spit at you if too hot. Cut the fruit into slices and slide in between if there’s too much fruit. Leave aside and make the cake batter.
  3. Stir the yogurt and milk together and set aside.
  4. Stir the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt together and set aside.
  5. Beat together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the extracts. Beat till creamy and doubled in volume.
  6. Fold in flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yogurt/milk mixture starting and ending with the flour.
  7. Pour batter over the apricots and spread evenly.
  8. Bake till golden brown and a satay stick inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean, about 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.
  9. When the cake is ready, wear oven mitts. Remove from oven and put a large flat plate over it, pressing plate and pan firmly together. Quickly invert cake onto plate and carefully lift off the pan. Quickly scrape off any caramel from the pan and drizzle onto cake.
  10. Best served warm, though really excellent cold too.

Makes 12 slices.

Seafood and an Unexpected Find at Alexandra Village

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I try to make sure I don’t get too fat by running three times a week. Unfortunately, running is almost always negated by dinner. After a good run at Labrador Park, we headed to Alexandra Village. We got there a bit too late as most of the famous stalls were closed. The good thing was that Rong Guang BBQ Seafood was not. We ordered sotong kia (deep fried baby squid in black sauce) and sambal sting ray. I managed to head off disaster by persuading DC that we really shouldn’t go for the deep fried you tiao.

DC decided that the sotong kia was one of the best he had, very similar to the memories of his childhood. I liked the crisp crunch of the squid especially while still piping hot, but I thought it was a bit too sweet for my liking. The best I’ve had in recent memory is the one at Pulau Ubin still.

DSCF5241

I adore sting ray and can never get enough of the moist smooth flesh. Grilled with sambal and eaten with onion-soaked chinchalok, it really is heaven in a mouthful. Here, the sambal was spicy with good kick and the fish fresh and firm.

DSCF5245

We had been rather, um, restrained in our ordering as DC wanted avocado ice cream. He was buying our very fresh and sweet pineapple and starfruit juice when he spied the avocado ice cream sign. Apparently Seng Hong Fruit Juice specialises in avocados. They make a mean avocado juice/milkshake too. (We had to go back another day to try it!)

DSCF5248

It’s the avocado ice cream that takes the cake. At first look, it’s a small tub costing $1. The pale green stuff was frozen solid and needed a while on the tongue to start yielding up some taste. I was dubious at first, but then started whining at DC for eating faster than me. The ice cream was very creamy and had a lot of avocado pieces swirled into the jade goodness. It’s definitely better and probably cheaper than the stuff you get at the local ice creameries. A definite win!

DSCF5250

Rong Guang Seafood BBQ and Seng Hong Fruit Juice are pretty much side by side, at the far corner of Alexandra Village hawker centre.

A Rather Impressive Roast Beef Lunch

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I had a joint of beef sitting in the freezer that was crying out to be turned into a lovely Sunday lunch. It’d been a long time since I’d last entertained, so I thought I’d make it slightly more elaborate than normal. I started off with bacon and watercress soup, then served the beef with mushrooms in red wine, roast pumpkin (DC’s helper made it so I don’t have the recipe), green salad and horseradish garlic cream sauce. To top it all off, I served a very successful tropical plate trifle. It was boozy, it had pineapple and passionfruit in it, it had cream, it was amazing.

So let’s start from the beginning. DC and I headed out to Choa Chu Kang the day before in search of fresh ingredients. Too bad about the poor selection at the farmer’s market, as we ended getting most of the stuff from Cold Storage at Jelita in the end. I made the soup, mushrooms and cake base the night before so that there wasn’t much work to do in the morning, just the beef and assembly work.

Here’s the beef just out of the oven, adorned by an afterthought of DC’s Irish breakfast sausages. (The sausages were from Cold Storage, we’re not yet so hardcore that we make our own sausages!)

DSCF5388

We reluctantly let it rest till our guests arrived and got on to reheating the soup and checking the flavourings of the sauces. Eeyore, Wei and WW arrived first and we got on with the soup. To our surprise, watercress and bacon soup went incredibly well with some homemade prawn-flavoured keropok lying around. We couldn’t help but mop up jade liquid with coral crisps, proclaiming all the way that there wouldn’t be space for the beef at the rate we were going through the bucket of keropok. By the time Shinta and KK arrived, the bucket had dwindled to half its original.

As KK and Shinta tucked into their soup, the rest of us went ahead with the main course. It was so good we almost didn’t leave enough for the latecomers. Luckily, those two eat fast and soon caught up with us as they bagged their share of the good stuff.

And then came dessert. Oh my was it good. There was the tang of lime and passionfruit, the fragrance of Silver Valley pineapple, soft voluptuous cream and a generous shot of booziness. No one uttered the customary complaint of how fattening dessert was. In fact, Eeyore protested when I suggested waiting a while to digest first before serving dessert.

A testimony to how good it was? There was hardly any talking at the table, only chomping and semi-civilised requests to pass dishes around, followed by satisfied grunts and sighs. We finished lunch in a record half hour, including a Bordeaux and a Spanish dessert wine to round it all off. Then we proceeded upstairs to fall asleep while Shinta and Eeyore battled it out on Wii Super Smash Bros.

Hungry yet? Now for the recipes.

Roast Beef

Ingredients:

1.5 kg joint of ribeye
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
4 good quality sausages (optional)

Method:

  1. Slather the thawed beef generously with black pepper and leave to marinate overnight.
  2. Remove joint from fridge at least 2 hours before cooking. Preheat the oven to 210 ºC.
  3. Rub the outside generously with olive oil and salt, place in a foiled roasting tin. Surround with sausages.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes at 210 ºC then turn down to 160 ºC for another 30 minutes. Like this, you’ll get it medium. (See picture.)
  5. Remove from oven and allow joint to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the other yummy stuff.

DSCF5390

Mushrooms in Red Wine

Ingredients:

80 g butter
6 onions or shallots, sliced
2 punnets brown mushrooms, sliced
200 ml dry red wine

Method:

  1. Melt the butter and cook the onions gently till soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms and on slightly higher heat, cook till most of the butter is absorbed.
  3. Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine.
  4. Allow to bubble for about 10 minutes or till mushrooms are nicely tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Horseradish Garlic Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

2 heads of garlic
1 pot cream
1 tbsp horseradish powder

Method:

  1. Roast the garlic in a pre-heated oven at 120 ºC for an hour or till soft.
  2. Cut the base of the garlic head and squeeze out the pulp into a mortar and pestle. Mash till smooth.
  3. In a pot, combine the garlic and cream and warm gently. Do not let boil.
  4. Mix in the horseradish powder and season to taste.

DSCF5394

Tropical Plate Trifle

[syrup-soaked cake]

Bake the cake here using lime zest instead of tangerine. Use the juice from 5 limes and 100 g of icing sugar for the syrup. Add a touch more icing sugar if you like it less sour.

[cream]

Whip the i small tub whipping cream with 2 tbsp icing sugar and 50 ml dark rum till you get soft peaks. Chill in the fridge immediately.

[fruit topping]

Add 2 tbsp of dark brown sugar to 3 pulped passionfruit, stir and chill in the fridge. Chop Silver Valley pineapple into smaller chunks than the photo (I was too lazy to cut them smaller) and chill.

[assembly]

Arrange thick slices of the cake on a suitable plate, scatter with a couple tbsp of dark rum, then dollop the rum cream lavishly over. Pour over sugared passionfruit pulp then sprinkle with pineapple pieces. Serve to oohs and aahs.

All recipes serve 7, with leftovers.

Singapore-Style Farmer’s Market

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

There’s this place in Choa Chu Kang called Farmart that bills itself as a farmer’s showcase of sorts. DC and I went there to check out the fresh produce as I was going to cook Sunday lunch for the usual suspects. It wasn’t quite the fruit and veg bonanza I expected as only one measly store sold sweet potato leaves and another one sold two types of fruit. The rest of the stores sold eggs, fresh fish, honey, quail and quail eggs, local pastries and wheat grass juice. There wasn’t a huge selection but the offerings were all very fresh, particularly the live fish on sale.

We stumbled across a small stand selling incredibly sweet Silver Valley pineapple and excellent mangosteen. The pineapple came from the same man selling pineapple at the goat farm in Lim Chu Kang and it’s sweet and aromatic, better than the Sarawak varietal. The mangosteen came in large net bags with the dark purple skin glistening brightly at us, beckoning us to buy. These were very good too. The seller claimed that they were so good only one in a hundred were bad. True enough, all of the ones I had were excellent, just the right balance of sweet and sour.

We then proceeded to Cheng’s Seafood Village within the same compound for lunch. DC’s idea of a simple lunch was horfun, stir-fried vegetables and a large heap of butter prawns. The cooking here is good. They use good stock liberally in the food. The vegetables were fragrant with lots of yummy stock and the horfun noodles were pre-fried so that each ribbon of noodle was slightly charred. Very well done. I also quite liked how there were  some little surprises such as the mussel in the horfun. What DC didn’t like was a mushy prawn. You win some you lose some I guess.

DSCF5380

DC claimed that it was good enough that he ordered butter prawns as the unhealthy alternative would be the oat prawns. I think I can safely say that DC is rather insatiable, perhaps more so than me. The moreish prawns were coated in an almost sweet butter crisp and were fried till just right. They were excellent even eaten shell on.

DSCF5386

Cheng’s Seafood Village
67 Sungei Tengah Road Unit 43
Tel 6892 5590

Self-Saucing Pineapple and Passionfruit Crumble

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I had this for a very decadent breakfast and I need to tell you how gorgeous it is. I love crumble, I like passionfruit and I adore custard. The problem with crumble and custard is that the custard is an extra fiddly step and is also incredibly fattening. For the record, I am a crumble Nazi and it’s against the law to eat crumble with ice cream. Unless it’s an incredibly hot day and you’re in Singapore. Sigh.

Nigella gave me some inspiration with her self-saucing gooseberry crumble recipe. I had passionfruit and pineapple, and everything just clicked into place. The gula melaka was a logical sweetener to keep to the tropical theme.

Why crumble for breakfast? Mum used to make apricot crumble for breakfast on weekends when we lived in Germany. It is such a comforting childhood memory. Also, a friend of mine claimed that passionfruit taken at night makes for a poor night’s sleep, so I make sure I only take passionfruit in the morning. It’s a silly superstitution I know, but humour me here.

dscf4247

Ingredients:
120 g butter, frozen
200 g plain flour, frozen
3 tbsp sugar

1 passionfruit
¼ small pineapple, chunked
2 tsp gula melaka
1 egg yolk
4 tbsp cream

dscf4254

Method:

  1. Remove the butter and flour from the freezer. Cut the butter into slices, then bits and using your fingers, rub it into the flour. You should get lumps of various sizes.
  2. Stir in the sugar and set aside. It’s worthwhile to make a larger batch of crumble topping to freeze for later. Then you can have crumble on demand.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  4. Stir the gula melaka into the passionfruit pulp and pineapple chunks until dissolved, then place into a shallow ovenproof bowl.
  5. Beat the egg yolk and cream together till combined, then stir into fruit mixture.
  6. Spoon the crumble over the mixture. Make sure it’s a very generous layer.
  7. Put in the oven for 25 minutes. Make sure you have something inside to catch the spills, it’s likely to bubble over.
  8. When it’s browned on top and bubbling below, take out carefully and allow to cool for 10 minutes before almost burning your mouth trying to get at the tart, sweet, fragrant, gorgeous goodness.

Serves 2-3, depending on how much you want to share.

Peranakan at the Arch

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

We had Peranakan at the Arch,  opposite Raffles Hotel. It’s a convenient place to go for dinner as it’s in a quiet corner of the city. The place has lots of decor from Ikea, so it’s all simple and understated. I love the service here. First thing they ask is if you’d like iced or warm water. Our server was attentive and smiling all the time. She gave good suggestions for our orders and made us feel right at home.

The first dish was the winged bean salad with dried shrimp and sambal. The raw beans were crisp and tasted very green. They were tossed in a generous dose of  dried shrimp and fiery chilli and finished off with lime juice.  It was a great start to the meal.

dscf3730

I enjoyed the squid in honey pineapple sauce. The sauce was sweet and tangy with a touch of chilli and the squid was cooked just right for me, chewy and on the edge to crunchy. My mum found it too tough for her liking.

dscf3732

The sayur lodeh (mild vegetable curry) was a crowd pleaser. Cabbage and long beans were cooked till soft but not mushy in a satisfyingly lemak (rich with coconut milk) sauce. I could also taste the dried shrimp in the sauce.  That’s the reason why Peranakan food needs to be eaten with lots of rice. Thumbs up.

dscf3733

Not wanting to be too greedy, we had only one meat dish, deep-fried pork ribs in lime and black sauce. This certainly isn’t a Peranakan dish but it sure is good. The deep-fried ribs were crisp despite being drowned in the sweet black sauce and they were very moreish. Calamansi lime halves and fried curry leaves were tossed in to add piquancy and fresh herbiness to the dish. Best dish of the evening.

dscf3737

We were rewarded for our restraint for the main dishes. Dessert here was very decent. The sago gula melaka ($1.20) was cheap and good. Sure, it was a small bowl, but isn’t that all you need at the end of a meal? The sago came splashed with coconut milk and the gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup came in a little jug of warm goodness. The gula melaka was rich and caramelly while the sago was cooked till just soft, a perfect combination of sweet and bland.

dscf37401

My brother had the pulut hitam (black glutinous rice porridge). It was coochengked with dried longan and finished off with coconut milk. I liked it because it was smooth and creamy without being cloying. It wasn’t too sweet and had a cheng (light) taste.

dscf3744

Dinner for three came up to about $60. It’s reasonably priced considering the town location. While  my Peranakan friends would probably sniff at the not-quite authentic food, the cooking is good and it’s a worthy option for a quiet and convenient place for dinner.

The Arch Straits Cuisine
32 Seah Street
Tel: 6837 3132