Quick Eats: Just Greens

DC and I don’t eat only meat. We do like our veg and we have the occasional fit of deceiving ourselves that any kind of vegetarian food is healthy. Thankfully our excesses are curbed slightly when eating vegetarian and we only ordered a few dishes when we went to Just Greens in Joo Chiat. The deep fried golden mushrooms were lovely. They were incredibly well-fried, being crisp and light and flavoured just right with salt and pepper. My favourite bit? They stayed crispy and non-greasy till the end. 10 out of 10!

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The kailan they did very well too, substituting the usual garlic and onion (not allowed for Buddhist zai vegetarians) with lily bulb. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, with good contrast between the sweet red peppers, delicately crisp lily bud and robustly crunchy kailan.

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I liked the sang meen the best. I think they made the brown sauce with lots of mushrooms because it sure was flavourful. The crispy noodles and crunchy vegetable topping really hit the spot for the vegetable lover in me!

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Just Greens
51 Joo Chiat Place
Tel: +65 6345 0069

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Comfort Food for Sickies: Multigrain Porridge/Risotto

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I was sick over the weekend and didn’t even have the energy to go out for groceries. Having still the need to feed myself, I rummaged in the fridge and found some hardy vegetables and plenty of various healthfood staples my mum bought from various places – brown rice, buckwheat, barley and regular rice. Not wanting to spend any time at all slaving over the stove, I chucked about a tablespoon or so of each grain into the rice cooker, topped up with plenty of water (at least twice the height of the grain) and set the rice cooker to start its job. I found some dried mushrooms, reconstituted them in some water, and sliced them. I then cut up the carrots into slices and the tomatoes into wedges. I also remembered that I had some organic no-msg vegetable stock powder in the fridge and scattered in a teaspoon or so into the cooking porridge, together with the carrot. It was then time for a nap of about 30 minutes.

When I woke up, the porridge was pretty much cooked and almost dried up to the consistency of thick rice even. I added a bit more water and stirred in the tomatoes. Then I took out an egg from the fridge, washed it thoroughly in warm water. I then set it in a bowl and poured hot water over it, letting it steep for about 5 minutes. By now my risotto was done and I scooped it out into a shallow dish. I then cracked the egg carefully into a hollow of the porridge, let any remaining eggwhite set in the heat of the porridge, then stirred it all together and ate it greedily before going back to bed. Simple, good and delicious.

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Quick Eats: Soup and Salad

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There’s a new salad place at Citylink Mall that’s both good and shockingly good value for money. I went for the $10 set lunch consisting of a soup of the day, a basic salad (the cheapest one on the board), and a small freshly squeezed juice. The juice wasn’t as small as I expected and they didn’t cheat by putting a huge lot of ice. My green apple juice was still sweet (I’m assuming no added sugar) and very refreshing. I went for a safe choice for the soup: mushroom. It was velvety and smooth and very flavourful – not your usual Campbells stuff.

The soup and nicely toasted bread were themselves quite filling, but the generous salad rounded off the meal so much that I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the portion! I liked how they had nice leaves like rocket, mizuna and baby spinach leaves. The system works so that you can choose a few kinds of each category according to the price of your salad. I was quite happy with the basic one because I wanted to go vegetarian for that meal. For the more expensive salads, the extra price goes for added meat and seafood ingredients. They had quite a wide range of dressings, just that I can’t quite remember what sorts they had. I went for the Asian dressing, which I quite liked even though it was slightly too sweet.

Mescluns
Citylink Mall (opposite HMV)

An Almost Vegetarian Dinner

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It was time we started eating slightly less fattening food. I attempted to go vegetarian(ish) for a meal or two. A trip to the supermarket got me lovely large king mushrooms, a courgette, mesclun salad and some herbs. The mushrooms ended up under the grill together with a miso-garlic marinade. The courgettes were caramelised and tossed with anchovies and mustard. Substitute capers for the anchovies if you’re going fully vegetarian, I just didn’t have capers in the house. For the couscous, make up some instant stuff with vegetable stock and stir in some chopped herbs. Here I use curly parsley (far cheaper than the Italian flat leaf type and much stronger, go easy). For the salad, I bought some mesclun and mixed in some organic tang oh (chrysanthemum leaves), then cracked in some pistachio (DC’s idea) and tossed in truffled olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It all came together to form a satisfying almost vegetarian dinner.

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Garlic-Miso King Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 king mushrooms
1 tbsp miso paste (I use red miso with konbu here)
1 tbsp dry vermouth (sherry or sake is good too)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Method:

  1. Slice the king mushrooms lengthwise.
  2. Blend the miso, vermouth and garlic till you get a spreadable paste, smear lovingly over the mushroom portions.
  3. Place under a hot grill for about 10 minutes on each side or until the miso paste just about chars. Serve.
  4. Just before eating, scrape off the excess miso because it gets quite salty.

Caramelised Courgette with Chilli

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
1 courgette, chunked
3 shallots, minced
2 tsp brown sugar
chilli padi, minced
2 anchovies, mashed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 sprigs basil, sliced fine

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the courgette pieces on all sides.
  2. Stir in the shallots on low heat and cook till fragrant. Now stir in the sugar and allow to caramelise.
  3. Add in the chilli padi and anchovy, stirring till combined.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the mustard and basil. Serve.

Both recipes serve 2.

Possibly the Best Vegetarian Food in Singapore

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Naive was so good we went there twice in a month, a rarity considering how promiscuous we are with our food places. This post is an amalgamation of both visits. At the start of the meal, a waiter will bring round a mortar and pestle filled with black and white sesame seeds for a wellness ritual of sorts. It was quite a nice start grinding up the seeds for sprinkling onto our food later.

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We started off with the excellent and almost unbelievably good brown olive rice. With the savoury olive paste inside, it was tasty enough to eat on its own. The kaffir lime leaf strips on the top brought it up a notch so much so that it was almost a waste to eat the rice with the dishes!

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The tamarind tofu cake was flavourful and the firm tofu tasting almost meaty. It really didn’t taste at all like I was eating a vegetarian dish. I liked how the seaweed wrapping the tofu gave it plenty of umami flavour that went well with the spicy tangy sauce.

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My favourite dishes were the monkeyhead mushroom ones. I can’t decide which is better, the braised version (Enchanted Forest) or the slivered and fried version (can’t remember the name).

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Both versions tasted fairly similar, they probably used the same sauce. It was made from good stock nonetheless and I’ll definitely have it again. I liked the texture of both versions. The fried version had a very nice crisp-chewy texture while the braised version was somehow firm and again, almost meaty. It certainly didn’t feel like I was eating vegetarian here.

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There were quite a few dishes that didn’t work for me. DC liked the golden oats (it’s his soft spot), but I felt that it was too pedestrian. The tofu in the dish didn’t shine at all. There was also the rendang tofu paired with mantou. That flopped because the taste was neither here nor there and the mantou gave the wrong taste associations: tongue was expecting darkly savoury and sweet, but got spicy instead. A big no-no.

I also didn’t like the steamed tofu with water chestnut and orange sauce. It didn’t help that the service is a bit odd: our waitress was this “I know better than your mum” type who didn’t get her recommendations right. She told us that the special of the day was two kinds of steamed tofu, one was orange and watercress and the other something I can’t remember. I expected that it would be a pairing of tofu, which would be rather interesting, but we were disappointed. It was also a bit annoying to find that the portions were really small. At first, we ordered only one olive rice and asked for a bowl so we could share. When the food arrived, we realised that we needed extra. At this point, the server took away the empty bowl, meaning that we couldn’t even share out the first bowl of rice and start eating. Sure, the second rice arrived very soon, but befuddling moments like these punctuated our entire meal.

Last gripe: the bowls are pretty but hopelessly impractical. The sloping sides made it impossible to rest our chopsticksĀ  naturally in between bites. I kept trying to put my chopsticks down only to realise belatedly that I had to angle them 90 degrees before it would work. Eat there and you’ll realise it.

Final verdict: the cooking at this place is very good, if they fail it’s because of the flavour profile falls flat, not the textures or cooking technique. There are some dishes that work really well, especially the signature monkeyhead mushroom and tofu cake dishes, as well as the olive rice. Other dishes aren’t so good, so be careful of the side-ish dishes. The place is too expensive for what you get and the service is very odd! (See above, plus they don’t take reservations for groups of less than five. I don’t see what’s stopping people from making reservations for five, turning up with three and telling the restaurant that the others didn’t want to go because of their odd requirements.)

99 East Coast Road
Tel: 6348 0668

Quick Meals: Black Bean Noodles

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I wanted to make something vegetarian and something quick. A pack of fermented black beans (tau si) had been sitting in my fridge for far too long, so I put two and two together and made these very satisfying noodles. The beans have such depth of flavour that it’s easy to forget that there’s no meat in it. For the noodles, use any dried wheat noodle. The packets are normally labelled la mian or some sort. I like to buy the bai yu (white jade) ones.

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Ingredients:

1 bundle dried wheat noodles
2 tsp oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tsp black beans, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil

Method:

  1. Boil the noodles in plenty of water till al dente.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan on medium and add the garlic and black beans. Fry till brown.
  3. Stir in the noodles and season to taste. Add soy sauce if you like.
  4. Top with sesame oil and serve with blanched vegetables on the side.

Serves 1.

Farm Visit at Poison Ivy

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A friend and I went to explore the Lim Chu Kang farm area on a lazy Sunday. Our first stop was of course for lunch and we had it at Poison Ivy at Bollywood Veggies Farm.

First, we cooled off with an icy glass of fig tea and then perused the menu.

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We ordered quite a bit of stuff off the special menu of the day. There was a lot to choose from but only two bellies to fill, so we had a tough time choosing.

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We started with the grilled brinjal. Even though the presentation was awful, with the tomato and onion sauce slapped on messily, it tasted quite decent. Dunno why but it seemed to be fried in egg rather than grilled like it said on the menu. I liked the soft texture It was not badof the brinjal although the sauce was a touch too sweet. My friend said that he had eaten better on previous visits.

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Next up was the banana curry. It’s so popular that it’s often sold out, so get there early for your banana curry fix. It was quite unusual because the bananas were the starchy less ripe variety. It went surprisingly well with the curry although I felt that it could have had a little more depth, perhaps paired with another vegetable, either carrot or cabbage maybe.

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Our last main dish was sweet potato leaves fried in chilli, garlic and onion. It was delicious! I liked how tender it was. It’s hard to find sweet potato leaves that aren’t fibrous and tough. These were deep green and very young, going very well with rice.

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For dessert, we had banana crumble and kueh kosui. The crumble was more of a cobbler and came with the usual supermarket vanilla ice cream. I liked the texture of the banana and suspect it’s probably pisang rajah. The topping and ice cream were pretty run of the mill. I routinely make better crumble than this and in my books, crumble has to come with custard. Not up to my standards.

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Now the finale certainly was a worthy one. The kueh kosui was what it should be: soft, sticky, coconutty, caramelly and yummy. It came in a big slab and had to be teased out in bits by the sticky forkful. Even my true-blue grandma-makes-everything-from-scratch Peranakan friend said it was decent. Pass!

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A word about the portions: they’re not exactly the most generous, but it makes for reasonable prices and the chance to nibble at a lot more things. I think small is beautiful, so I’m not complaining. Just take note if you’re a big eater, as opposed to merely a greedy eater like me. The bill came up to $23.50 for the two of us. It was decent considering we had two fig teas, three dishes with rice and two desserts.

Poison Ivy Bistro
100 Neo Tiew Road
Tel: 6898 5001