Laksa’s origins will surprise you

28 11 2017

I’ve always enjoyed a bowl of laksa. The dish, which has an amazing range of equally delectable localised variations, brings great comfort and joy to many in Malaysia, parts of Indonesia and Singapore. There is perhaps no other dish that can so strongly be identified with a locality. In its very basic form, laksa is a vermicelli like noodle in a broth.  While it can be said that it is in the countless variations of this broth, tempered by the influences of over a century, that has provided the various forms of the dish with its local flavour; its origins as a dish, how it morphed into what we see of it today, and even its rather strange sounding name, is a source of great puzzlement.

Singapore Laksa

One suggestion of how laksa got its name that has gained popularity is that it was derived from a similar sounding Sanskrit word for a hundred thousand. This, it is said, is an allusion perhaps to the multitude of ingredients that go into making the various forms of its broth the celebration of flavours that they are. I am however inclined to take the side of the suggestion that the wonderful encyclopedia of the world’s culinary delights, the Oxford Companion to Food, offers. That has the word laksa being Persian in origin. Lakhsha meaning “slippery” in old Persian, was apparently also used to describe noodles, which the book also credits the Persians with the invention of.

Sarawak Laksa

That latter suggestion will no doubt spark endless debate. There seems however to be evidence to support the assertion such as in the many noodle type dishes that are found spread across the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe – all with names that all sound very much like lakhsha. Examples of this are the Russian lapsha, the Uyghur laghman, the Jewish lokshen, the Afghan lakhchak, the Lithunian Lakštiniai, and the Ukrainian lokshina. The Italian sheet pasta dish, Lasagne, also sounds uncannily similar to old Persian for noodles.

Lokshen (photo: Danny Nicholson on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0).

As with the variants of the Near East, Lakhsha seems to have become a similiar sounding laksa in this part of the world. Early Malay-English dictionaries, such as one published by R. J. Wilkinson in 1901, have laksa both as the word for ten thousand, as well as for a “vermicelli” – ascribing the latter’s origins to the same Persian word.  The use of the word as such is seen in several of the news articles of the day. One report, in the Malayan Saturday Post of 29 December 1928, shows how “Chinese Laksa” was then made, through a series of four photographs. As a word to describe a type of noodles, laksa is in fact very much still in use in places such as the Riau Archipelago. There, “lakse” or “laksa”, is taken as a noodle of a similar appearance to the laksa we find here made from the staple of the islands, sago.

R. J. Wilkinson’s “A Malay-English Dictionary” describes the word “laksa” both as a word for ten-thousand as well as for a kind of vermicelli.

Uyghur laghman noodles (Nate Gray on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

There also are early descriptions of how that laksa may have been prepared in the press. One, found in a 1912 report on hawker fare in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, describes what seems to be quite a different dish from the one we are now familiar with:

A familiar dish with the Chinese coolie and Straits school-boy is “laksa”. The vendor of this compound, vermicelli, “rats’ ears” (mush-rooms), and other things in a kind of soup, shouts out every now and then “Laksa a wun!” and many who taste it declare that it is A1.

Lakse or laksa, describes these noodles made from sago in Pulau Singkep in the Lingga group of islands in the Riau Archipelago.

One of the many ways in which laksa is served on Pulau Singkep is with a fish broth and sambal.

poem, penned in 1931 by a prominent personality Mr. Seow Poh Leng – a Municipal Commissioner and a champion of hawkers’ rights – provides an idea of how the dish had by the 1930s, started to evolve. An attempt to draw attention to the difficulties street hawkers faced, the verse also describes how a dough of ground rice became “lumps of tiny snow-white coils” when boiled and which was then “served with tasty gravy and a pinch of fragrant spice”. Published in the Malayan Saturday Post of 16 May 1931, the piece was the writer’s response to the death of a laksa vendor. The vendor had taken his own life after several run ins with the Municipal authorities that deprived him of his livelihood.

Laska Siam, served at another popular Penang laksa stall, this one at Balik Pulau.

By the 1950s, laksa as a dish, seemed to have already taken on several distinct styles. A 1951 article in The Singapore Free Press, “Let’s talk about food”, mentions two types of “Siamese” laksa: one sweet and one hot and sour, along with a “Nonya” laksa. The two variants of “Siamese” laksa are again mentioned in a 1953 Singapore Free Press article on food in Penang. The sour type “Siamese” laksa identified is perhaps the predecessor to the Penang or asam (or assam) laksa dish of today as another 1951 report, this time in The Straits Times on Penang, seems to confirm. The article draws attention to one of Penang’s attractions, Ayer Itam (now spelled Air Itam), to which the young and old would walk six miles or brave a ride on a crowded bus to. Ayer Itam, is identified as “the village with the famous Kek Lok Si”, and (a seemingly already popular) “Siamese” laksa (Air Itam is a location many in Penang flock to today for asam laksa).

A bowl of Penang or Asam Laksa.

Another version of Asam Laksa from Madras Lane in Kuala Lumpur.

What we can perhaps surmise from all of this information is that despite its shared name, laksa in its many variations are really different dishes. Built on an otherwise tasteless base of rice or sago vermicelli or a noodle substitute, how its various forms of laksa have been flavoured to excite the palate, says much about the invention and the creativity of the region’s pioneering food vendors.

Variation on a theme, Laksa Goreng (Fried Laksa), Peranakan style.

Lakse Goreng topped with crushed ikan bilis from Pulau Singkep.


A Hawker’s Lament
by Seow Poh Leng
(Malayan Saturday Post, 16 May 1931, Page 18)
We came from far Cathay, the land of old renown,
A livelihood to seek in this far-famed town.
My parents they are old but still must toil each day
My father selling bean-curds, my mother selling “kway”.
We left our home and kin to this far distant shore;
And promised to return to see them all once more,
To share with them and theirs what little we have made
By dint of patient toil, by means of honest trade.
By four o’clock each morning when you are all abed
The ‘laksa’ I’m preparing that people may be fed
I grind some rice to powder and knead it to a dough
Then press it through a sieve to a boiling pot below.
This stringy mass of flour which hardens as it boils
Is made up into lumps of tiny snow-white coils;
Then served with tasty gravy and a pinch of fragrant spice
My ‘laksa’ finds more favour than the ordinary rice.
In woven bamboo basket made up in several tiers
Are placed my tooth-some wares and the necessary gears.
In a gourd-shaped earthen vessel the ‘laksa’ simmers low,
All day aboiling gently on charcoal burning slow.
From street to street I wander, my pace a steady trot,
And bear my loaded basket as well as the steaming pot.
The noon day trade I seek and may with luck—oh rare !
Avoid the stern police who ask a certain share.
These guardians of the law with lynx eyes watch for me,
And more than do their duty unless I pay a ” fee.”
They see that I comply with what the by-laws state;
That is, whatever happens, I must itinerate.
Sometimes from sheer fatigue I pause some breath to take,
To dry my streaming sweat, to ease the limbs that ache;
And then the “Mata-mata” finds me resting there,
And forthwith to the Court I must with him repair.
And once – alas the thought! – in prison cell I lay.
The fine imposed on me was more than I could pay.
What use is there for me this arduous life to lead?
My humble cries for mercy receive but scanty heed.
By ceaseless toil I tried an honest life to lead.
If I the “tips” forget, the traffic I impede.
And for such bogus crime there is no other way –
Before the Court I’m brought and straightway made to pay.
I’ve plied my trade from childhood, the profits have been small,
Yet I would quit right gladly for any work at all,
Seek work at any distance – if only work there be
Without the constant harass and the unofficial fee.
A rickshaw puller – aye the “totee’s” job I’ll do.
I’ll go to Malacca, I’ll go to Trengganu.
Alack! my quest is vain, my faintest hope is gone;
My limbs they are weary, my heart with sorrow torn.
Good-bye the M.H.O., my last farewell to thee!
Good-bye to all M.C.’s, good-bye the I.G.P.!
You wish me back to China, you want me off the street;
Posterity shall know I die your wish to meet!
Not satisfied with fines the Magistrates impose
The dreary prison cell must add to hawkers’ woes.
My goods and property you wish to confiscate?
But here you will not win—the law will come too late!
Good-bye my parents dear, good-bye my kith and kin!
Think not the step I take a very grievous sin.
Right well I am aware of honour due to you;
And thank you from my heart for lessons wise and true.
To comfort your old age my level best I’ve tried.
My efforts seem in vain, the cruel fates decide.
I cannot stoop to crime and slur the family name,
So drink this portion dark, preferring death to shame.

A Malay laksa vendor in Penang, c. 1930s (http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline | Mrs J A Bennett Collection/National Archives of Singapore).


 

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The Real McCoy

29 07 2016

Like it or hate it, there seems no end in sight to the salted egg craze. Salted eggs, a long time poor Chinese man’s source of protein, now  seem to flavour just about anything from seafood to pastries and burgers here in Singapore.

The Quarters is latest to join the fray with its own take on the slated egg burger popularised recently by a certain fast food chain. The modsin café, which is helmed by Chung Deming – the man behind the out-of-this-world Durian Crème Brulee, intends with the burger’s debut, to show us what the Real McCoy, as salted egg burgers go, should really be about.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

While I am not a huge fan of the taste of salted eggs, I enjoy a good bite with its flavours mixed in and I have to admit that Deming’s Real McCoy is an extremely good bite.  Dripping but not soggy from the creamy rich almost cheese like appearance yellow coloured aioli – which by the way is bottled and sold off the shelf, the burger as a whole is flavourful with many subtle hints of the smaller parts that make the whole. What I also like about the Real McCoy is its wonderfully thick, cripsy and yet juicy oat batter coated American Southern style fried chicken patty that sits on a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes – just how I think chicken burgers should be.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Complementing the Real McCoy very well is Deming’s super shiok Shiok Fries – which can be eaten with the salted egg aioli or better, the chilli crab sauce. Whatever way you like it, remember to also leave some room for the desserts …. the Real McCoy can be paired with the café’s signature Durian Crème Brulee or DurianCanBoleh for a nice price until the end of August. And if durian doesn’t give you enough of a kick, there is something else that will certainly give you one – Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream that tastes just like buah keluak out of the shell when cooked in a Peranakan kitchen.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer - including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer – including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The Real McCoy ($16 nett – $14 nett for a limited promotional period only) will be available from 30 July 2016 at both The Quarters at Icon Village (at Enggor Street) and its sister outler, Kush at Timbre+ (at Alexandra Distripark).

 





A great reason to say cheese!

26 04 2013

There a nice little place in a corner of Toa Payoh Central where you probably won’t mind getting into a gooey yellow mess, and as the good people behind the place would have it, fall in love … The little place, Yellow Submarines at Block 177, one of the latest fast-food concepts in town, will surely get you into one – with its offerings of sandwiches and fries loaded with an oh-so-good mess of melted cheese – so good that it certainly won’t be a surprise if it does have, as the writing on the wall there would have it, you falling in love at first bite!

Certainly love at first bite!

Certainly love at first bite!

The menu is built around a Philly icon, the cheesesteak.

The menu is built around a Philly icon, the cheesesteak.

The cheese laden offerings Yellow Submarines has on its menu, is built around a long time Philly (Philadelphia) icon,  the Cheesesteak. It does however, go beyond the popular steak sandwich in its “no pork, no lard” menu and includes choices which extends to tuna as well as vegetarian sandwiches.

Yellow Submarines' menu has something to offer everyone.

Yellow Submarines’ menu has something to offer everyone.

Even with the choices on the menu, it wasn’t difficult to come to a quick decision on what I was going to have. It had to be the Yellow Submarine Classic. Filled with a generous portion of thinly sliced premium New Zealand beef flavoured with gravy and caramelized onions and coloured yellow with cheese, the Classic is indeed one – each bite into it was one which brought pure joy to the tastebuds! Yummy and I was definitely in love! There is a choice of having the sandwich on its own or adding the price of a serving of Torpedo Fries, for a very sinful serving of the melted cheese rich and somewhat spicy Torpedo fries and a drink.

The best and messiest way to have that Classic and Torpedo Fries - especially with the cheese at the bottom of the cup the fries comes in.

The best and messiest way to have that Classic and Torpedo Fries – especially with the cheese at the bottom of the cup the fries comes in.

With the portion being sufficiently large and that I had to save myself for the tempting desserts on the menu, I left it to the others in the group to tell me about the other items – all of which return positive verdicts.

The vegetarian mushroom laden M-1.

The vegetarian mushroom laden M-1 Submarine.

The Tuna Submarine.

The Tuna Submarine.

The Chicken Submarine.

The Chic Submarine.

The Single Hit.

The Single Hit.

The desserts on the menu – are highly recommended – the brownie (Choco Bomber) especially, although the cheesecake (NY Cheese Hunt) does deserve an honourable mention, as does the ice-cream filled brioche. Not a fan of brownies, the Choco Bomber did win me over with its most texture and rich enough chocolate flavour which wasn’t – as brownies tend to be, overpowering.

Must try desserts - the cheesecake, brownie and

Must try desserts – the cheesecake (NY Cheese Hunt), brownie (Choco Bomber) and brioche with ice-cream (Frozen Cannon).

Not normally a brownie fan, the Choco Bomber won me over - thought it was just right, not too sweet or overpowering.

Not normally a brownie fan, the Choco Bomber won me over – thought it was just right, not too sweet or overpowering.

Yellow Submarines can be found at Blk 177 #01-110 Toa Payoh Central Singapore 310177 (end of Blk 177 that faces Lorong 2) and is open from 10.30 am to 10.30 pm daily. For the official opening this weekend (26 to 28 April 2013 – dates inclusive), Yellow Submarines is offering a free upgrade to a meal for every purchase of a sandwich, sub or burger – so do hurry down! More information can be found at the Yellow Submarines website and Facebook Page. Yellow Submarines can also be found on Instagram and if you do post pics on Instagram, do remember to add the hashtag #yellowsubmarinescheesesteaks.

Official opening promotion - free upgrade to a meal only on the weekend of 26 to 28 April.

Official opening promotion – free upgrade to a meal only on the weekend of 26 to 28 April.





Brunch with a zebra

11 04 2013

It was probably a little too early for that glass Sangria I had late on a Saturday morning. Especially so, when I had a zebra, and if that wasn’t enough, a few horses thrown in as well, for company. I am quite sure, of course, that the horses and lone zebra that accompanied the deliciously refreshing beverage wasn’t the result of sangria induced hallucinations. The animals – wall-mounted ornaments in the form of the heads of them, meant perhaps to turn heads, were all part of the décor at the restaurant I was seated at, Sabio by the Sea, for a tasting session of the restaurant’s Weekend Brunch menu.

A reward from having brunch with a zebra.

A reward from having brunch with a zebra.

The restaurant's resident zebra,and some of its horses.

The restaurant’s resident zebra,and some of its horses.

A generous dose of Sangria, from a choice of either white or red accompanied our brunch.

A generous dose of Sangria, from a choice of either white or red accompanied our brunch.

The second of a pair of Sabio’s, Sabio by the Sea follows on the success of the Deliciae Hospitality Management group’s Sabio on Duxton Hill, and is the group’s 8th restaurant concept. In its curious décor are the flavours of the original Sabio, a cozy tavern from 19th Century Seville and elements of the sea, all infused with a somewhat whimsical touch – a reflection perhaps of the selection of flavours on its menu.

The flavourful décor inside Sabio by the Sea.

The flavourful décor inside Sabio by the Sea.

The highlight on its menu is the meat and seafood selection, grilled using charcoal ovens which have been flown-in specially from Spain – the creations of Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan, who hails from Brittany on the wild western coast of France. The menu also offers a varied choice and includes a wide selection of hot and cold tapas; jamon (Serrano, Iberico and Iberico Bellota) and chorizo (pork sausages); paella as well as a choice of white or red Sangria, which we are told have been perfected by Sabio.

Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan (R) posing with Bruno Menard (L) the first Singapore based Michelin Star Chef who dropped by to say hi.

Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan (R) posing with Bruno Menard (L) the first Singapore based Michelin Star Chef who dropped by to say hi.

A charcoal oven specially imported from Spain.

A charcoal oven specially imported from Spain.

Popular items on the menu include the Esparrago (Grilled Asparagus, Serano Ham, soft Egg, Paprika & Sherry Vinaigrette), Navajas (Razor clams with chorizo and garlic sauce), El Pulpo (Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika) and La Carne (Grilled Ribeye, Cheese Sauce, Grilled Pimentos). Another very popular choice, is the restaurant’s Weekend Brunch Menu, which allows a quick introduction to the tastes on offer, for which I and a bunch of others others were there to try.

The restaurant's brunch menu.

The restaurant’s brunch menu.

Brunch starts with the El Sabio Basket with small baguette, a mini-croissant, and a mini pain au chocolat served with strawberry jam, butter, orange juice and a delighfully light yoghurt with berries. Not actually made by the restuarant, the basket contains the best bread and pastries I have come across in Singapore and is a wonderful way to put you in the right mood for brunch.

A wonderfully delicious bread basket to start off brunch.

A wonderful bread basket to start off brunch.

The bread basket was accompanied by a glass of yogurt.

The bread basket was accompanied by a glass of yoghurt with berries.

What was to follow was a feast for the senses as the restaurant served up a variety not just of what was on its brunch menu, but also some of its signature dishes which wasn’t just pleasing to the taste-buds, but also a visual and aromatic feast! It all came fast and furious: Chachouka, Grilled Ribeye, Olive Bread with Serrano Ham, a fluffy Omelette, Prok Shoulder, and an Octopus leg – pleasures out of the charcoal oven. It is hard to play favourites with all of that but if I were to choose, it would be the succulent ribeye and pork both well marinated, slow grilled and bursting with taste. I did also enjoy the Octopus leg – as I always do, especially when it is delicately grilled to perfection in the way it is done at Sabio. That interestingly is served with purple mashed potato.

Toasted Bread With Garlic, Roasted Baby Potatoes, Pan Fried Chorizo,Manchego Cheese, Soft Egg.

Chachouka – with Chorizo Sausage, Two Fried Eggs, Toasted Brioche And Green.

Grilled Ribeye (120g), Chachouka, Fried Egg And Grilled Mushrooms.

Grilled Ribeye (120g), Fried Egg And Grilled Mushrooms.

Grilled Olive Bread Stuff With Manchego Cheese And Serrano Ham, BabySpinach Salad.

Grilled Olive Bread Stuff With Manchego Cheese And Serrano Ham, Baby
Spinach Salad.

Fluffy Omelette, Roasted Potatoes , Manchego Cheese, Serrano Ham, Basil And Grilled Cherry Tomatoes.

Fluffy Omelette, Roasted Potatoes , Manchego Cheese, Serrano Ham, Basil and Grilled Cherry Tomatoes.

El Cerdo -Herbs Marinated Pig Shoulder Served With Sauteed Potatoes.

El Cerdo –
Herbs Marinated Pig Shoulder Served With Sauteed Potatoes.

El Pulpo -Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika.

El Pulpo –
Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika.

The inquisition of what’s on Sabio’s menu would not be complete without a taste of what has to be the items which are the most sinfully pleasurable. Even with a tummy full of what was previously served, we all had room for all of what came, including the House’s Signature Dessert, the especially sinful Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava – Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake which oozes not just with warm and sticky caramel, but which together with the ice-cream it was served brought pure pleasure with each mouthful.

Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava -Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake.

Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava –
Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake.

Also of note is the Piña Asada. That came in half the shell of the pineapple with golden caramelized cubes of its previous contents in it, served with a portion oh-so-heavenly vanilla ice-cream. The other dessert items which we got to savour also deserve an honourable mention. These are the Arroz con leche – Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding, the Churros – which I must say have to the best tasting ones in town. That, if not also everything else, is certainly reason enough to make a visit my Sentosa Cove all worthwhile.

Piña asada - Roasted marinated pineapple served with vanilla ice cream.

Piña Asada – Roasted marinated pineapple served with vanilla ice cream.

Arroz con leche -Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding.

Arroz con leche –
Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding.

The best tasting Churros in town!

The best tasting Churros in town!

Sabio by the Sea offers dining both in the restaurant and al fresco and is located at Quayside Isle next to W Hotel at 31 Ocean Way #01-02 Singapore 098395. It is accessible by car as well as from the Beach Station in Sentosa (Sentosa Bus 3 to Sentosa Cove Arrival Plaza from Beach Station), which runs every 30 minutes from from 8 am to 10.30 pm daily. The restaurant is opened from 12 pm to 10 pm on Mondays to Thursdays, 12 pm to 12 am on Fridays, 10 am to 12 am on Saturdays and 10 am to 10 pm on Sundays. The restaurant can ne contacted at 6690 7568 or SBTS@sabio.sg. For more information on the restaurant and on the Deliciae group, do visit www.deliciae.sg.

Detail on the menu board.

Detail on the restaurant’s menu board.





Pairing with Martell on a high

28 03 2013

It is in a room with a view that I experienced what has to be one of my high points of the year. It wasn’t just that I was seated in a restaurant, which on the 62nd floor of One Raffles Place, is perched close to the top of what is one of the highest points over Singapore one can possibly get up to without boarding an aircraft, but also from the treat over lunch that was to follow.

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Lunch, which was at the kind invitation of Martell and Stellar at 1Altitude, was a tasting session of a cognac pairing menu available exclusively at Stellar for the month of March (it has since been extended to Sunday 14 April 2013). The menu involves signature dishes on the Stellar menu, paired with cocktails made with Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as a primary base. After a quick introduction to the restaurant with a Cream of Youth, the tasting session proper commenced with the first pairing on the menu. This was the very rich Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote. To complement the foie gras, a cocktail with a balance of acidity (as a foil for rich foods), sweetness, aroma and texture, much as the classic accompaniment to foie gras, the full bodied white wine, Sauternes, is was required. The result is “Inside the Rocks”, a concoction with dry orange, molasses syrup and fresh parsley that is mixed with Cherry Brandy and Martell Cordon Bleu. Chilled inside a hollow ball of ice which is broken before it is served, the cocktail is indeed a delicate blend – the dry orange drawing out the notes on the cognac – a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of the foie gras and rillettes of duck.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Which is paired with "Inside The Rocks": a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Which is paired with “Inside The Rocks”: a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Next was a Classic Lobster Bisque, served with leek fondue and a seared scallop ravioli, paired with a champagne cocktail “Erlinda 1942”. The cocktail meant to bring out the feel of summer, brought out by the taste of lemons and herbs. Besides lemon juice and star anise, the very refreshing cocktail has also crème de cassis, rose Water, St. Germain liqueur, champagne, and Martell Cordon Bleu mixed into it, bringing out a zest which well complements the lobster bisque with a huge and very succlent piece of scallop in the ravioli.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with "Erlinda 1942" a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemonsand a hint of herbs - mixed of course with some cognac.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with “Erlinda 1942” a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemons and a hint of herbs – mixed of course with some cognac.

The highlight of the pairing menu seemed to saved for last, the last before the dessert that was to follow, that is. To accompany the very tender slow cooked (over a wood coal fire for four hours) Kobe C beef off the ribs, served with short rib hash, tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce, was “1st and Last ”. While that certainly wasn’t the last cocktail to be served, I certainly would not have minded if it was. The deliciously penetrating and flavourful aroma brought out by the infusion of cardomom syrup and a cinnamon stick is certainly one that lingers and one which seems to melt into the tasty morsels of beef oozing with flavour from its cooking. The cocktail is one in which the spices come together with a Martell Cordon Bleu base and Zen green tea liqueur bringing out a “lemony and flowery” flavour,  “with note of camphor or eucalyptus due to cineole in the essential oil”.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Paired with my personal favourite "1st and Last" - rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick - one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Paired with my personal favourite “1st and Last” – rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick – one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Dessert is something that always comes as a treat, more so in this case being prepared at the table. The “1-Caramel Dessert Experience” which was served on a platter and to be shared was certainly made even more irresistible with its baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; and vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream. The 1-Caramel Dessert Experience is one that is paired with “El Favorito”, a very rich combination of Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao – said to bring emotions to your head, with a sweet and creamy flavour – it did well complement the dessert experience and while it was perhaps a little too heavy for me, it was a sweet and flavourful way to bring the tasting session accompanied by one of the best views of modern Singapore out the window, to a conclusion.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Dessert is served.

Dessert is served.

The baked Alaska.

The baked Alaska.

Dessert is paired with "El Favorito": Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

Dessert is paired with “El Favorito”: Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

The “Pairing with Martell” menu is available at Stellar at 1Altitude until 14 April 2013. Besides the individual paired items on the menu, a set menu which includes all dishes and cocktails, is also available at s$185++. Reservations are highly recommended.





Spreading happiness at Serangoon Gardens

14 02 2013

Tucked away in a somewhat obscure area of Serangoon Gardens is a delightful little café that as its name, Sun Ray Café, suggests, brings sun rays over the area. Describing itself as a joyful and offbeat spot, the cafe is probably better known to pet owners – it being one of the few pet friendly eateries found in the area of Singapore.  I guess, not being a pet owner, I might be forgiven for not being aware of the cafe, and it was only through an invitation for a food tasting session that I got to know of its existence.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

That it is an offbeat place is probably also seen in some of the food creations made specially for the occasion of the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day. One of the first things we got  to do was toss the what has come to be a tradition for the Lunar New Year in Singapore and Malaysia, Yu Sheng or Raw Fish Salad. That is perhaps as traditional as it does get, not only is the “Raw Fish” Salad topped not by raw fish as its name might suggest, but by a generous helping of smoked salmon, but it also is  tossed with a fork. Topped off with croutons, and served with plum sauce, the salad’s ingredients and the salmon topping is shaped into a short cylinder in a mould – taking on a rather quirky and non-conventional appearance. The Sun Ray Café Yu Sheng Platter, named Rising Joy is rather a rather delightful twist to the traditional dish, comes in two sizes – a small portion ideal for 2 diners is priced at $10.80 and the large portion for 4 diners costs $16.80 and will be available until 24 February. Being a pet friendly, the café also serves a pet version of the dish with boiled salmon, a portion of which costs $6.80.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

The main part of the food tasting was to introduce the café’s Valentine’s Day menu (for which this post probably comes a little too late for). Available on 13 and 14 February, the menu comes with a choice of three entrées. The menu is also served with a Smoked Salmon Salad served with a wonderful walnut sauce dressing; a Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup inspired by how cappuccino is served these days which I thought was just right – light and not overladen with cream; a choice of Home Made Tiramisu or Chocolate Lava Cake; and a choice of drinks – a Signature Mocktail Mellini or a glass of House Wine. The entrées can be selected from a Australian Seared Steak (marinated in red wine and rosemary and served with Lyonnais potatoes); Crusted Salmon (sesame crusted salmon with sweet taro mash – I am told it is naturally sweet taro); or the Honey Glazed Spring Chicken (grilled and served with oven-roasted potatoes). I though the salmon turned out the best – full of flavour complemented by the sesame crust. The steak was also tender and juicy and rich in flavour. The chicken however did taste a little too sweet and wasn’t to my liking. The menus are priced at $45 for the steak, $35 for the salmon and  $30 for the chicken.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

Cuppa' Mushroom Soup.

Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup.

The Valentine's Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The Valentine’s Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The crusted salmon.

The crusted salmon served with sweet taro mash.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

Besides the food – the café’s owner is also big on coffee. A trained barista, he hopes to also turn the café into one that serves specialty coffees and is considering roasting his own beans. Tthe café was kind enough to have a little coffee appreciation session during which Columbia Geisha beans (which we were told cost $300 a kg!) were used and the practice of coffee cupping was  introduced – after which I will not look at a cup of kopi-o in the same way again.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

A cupping spoon.

A cupping spoon.

Located at 79 Brighton Crescent, more information on the pet friendly café can be found at its Facebook page. And do note that, as a special treat, the café is extending a $10 return voucher – all you would need to do to claim the voucher is to say “Happiness will keep us alive!” to the staff serving you.





High on Sky

1 10 2012

Lunch on the third day was to be quite a surprise, the venue for it being high in the Sky above the Macau peninsula. It was on the 21st level of the AIA Tower, at the aptly named Sky 21 to be exact, a destination that as I was to discover, offered more than just a great dining experience in a room with a view.

Sky 21 is a surprise that awaits on the 21st and 22nd floors of the AIA Tower in Macau. Sky Life – an action and entertainment venue on the 22nd floor is seen here (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The sign at the entrance to Sky 21 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Much of the decor found in the MOP 20 million dining and entertainment venue is Zen inspired (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Stepping through into the restaurant, the view offered not only out the windows but of the restaurant itself was a pretty eye-catching one. The 80 seat main dining area’s Zen inspired décor, was certainly one with a lot of appeal. It was at a private room where we were to have lunch, and stepping inside, it did not take very long for the cameras to come out. The views out the window and the room itself certainly seemed to catch the fancy of everyone in the group. The VIP Room accommodates a maximum of 16 people, and can be reserved for private events such as birthday parties, private dining, and small meetings and is equipped with a private restroom, projector and screen.

The Zen inspired decor seen in the main dining area (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The VIP Room is a room that certainly has a view (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The southward view from the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Decor inside the VIP Room.

The lunch menu at Sky 21 offers a selection of set meals, a Pan-Asian selection that gives diners a choice of Macanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese. I decided on the Japanese which proved to be an excellent choice, as was the various other choices made by the other in the group. After a common raw tuna salad that was served, my set was served. Beautifully arranged on a tray, it had a bowl of a crab roe salad with aloe, another of udon noodles in soup with Japanese roast pork, a generous serving of sushi, and a rather attractively presented slice of wasabi cheesecake.

Inside the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Choices, choices! Willy probably wishes he could order everything on the menu (i did too!) (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Japanese set that I ordered (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Wasabi cheesecake – yummy!

Valyn staring into her dessert – one that came with the Macanese set.

Being one who eats first and asks questions later, I will leave reviewing the food to one of my favourite food bloggers, Yiwei. I can however say that the food certainly did not disappoint and is very good value based on the prices that were on the menu.

The food review is best left to food blogger Yiwei.

There was some time for a small presentation of prizes to the winners of the previous day’s race through the streets of old Macau at which no one came away disappointed. Even with the team I was in coming in an embarrassing last, Kaika (my teammate) and I did receive a prize – for a photo posted during the race. The prizes were presented by Iris of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) in Singapore, who we have to thank for making the trip such a wonderful experience. The MGTO were the kind sponsors of the trip, with Tiger Airways, which flies to Macau daily, sponsoring the flights to and from Macau.

Iris announcing who the winners of the race were (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shot of my race teammate Kaika.

Valyn showing the prize that she got … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A short tour followed of the MOP 20 million luxury dining, shopping and entertainment destination, which is not only on the 21st floor AIA Tower, but also extends one floor up to the 22nd floor. On the same level as the restaurant, we were to discover a surprise that was hidden in a room behind closed doors – an exclusive luxury retail showroom that is reserved for Sky’s VIP guests. Designed to attract the big spender, there is a selection of hard-to-find luxury goods on offer behind the showcases … something that certainly opened the eyes of the ladies in the group (and most of the men too)! Access to the showroom can also be made via a concierge service that is available through one of the Suncity group VIP rooms which can be found in all Macau 5 star Casinos.

Inside Sky Luxe (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Leaving Sky Luxe behind, we went up a flight of stairs to the 22nd level where we got a look at Sky Life, an action and entertainment venue which offers live entertainment and features guest DJs; and also the SKY B bar and lounge with an open terrace which has great views of Macau Tower and of the area around the Grand Lisboa. The two outlets do also offer dining – a semi-buffet Western Excutive Lunch is available as well as a Classic / Asian Afternoon Tea. Both certainly are cool places I wouldn’t at all mind an evening out in.

Sky B is a bar on the 22nd level (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The open terrace of Sky B offers magnificent views of the area around Macau Tower … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5) …

… and the skyscrapers around the Grand Lisboa (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another view of Sky B (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At this point I would like to express my appreciation to Sky 21 for the scrumptious lunch and also for showing what a wonderful concept Sky is all about. It certainly is a place to see and also be seen in. More information on Sky 21 can be found at its website (click here).


Links to getting high:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Sky 21


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting starts on 28 September 2012 and details can be found at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.









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