my(Food)Village

11 04 2011

That Serangoon Gardens is an area that is blessed with some of the best eating places in Singapore, there is no doubt. It had been a haunt for food lovers since I can remember, with Chomp Chomp being a popular food centre even back in the days when I was a child. Now, there is even more reason for food lovers to brave the weekend crowds that throng Serangoon Gardens in search of good makan. The redevelopment of what had been for a while, Serangoon Garden Village (developed around the former Paramount Theatre), to an new and very interesting mall, myVillage, one with which the owners’ aim to bring Orchard Road into the suburbs. Packed into a really cosy mall that does not give the impression of having the space to, is a wonderful array of food establishments, which I am given to understand, have been hand selected for the care in which each outlet puts into in bringing the culinary delights on offer, from the traditional to the new age, that is certain to leave one a little spoilt for choice and with a food sampling invitation from the good people of myVillage, along with a few other bloggers, I was able to find out a little more of the choices that are on offer.

myVillage brings not just a modern mall into the heart of Serangoon Garden, but also an interesting array of culinary delights to an area that is already well known as a food lovers haunt.

We started out at Daikokuya, which translates into “God of Wealth” in Japanese, during which we were introduced not just to its interesting menu of Ramen on offer, but also to the chef, Chef Suzuki. We were told of the painstaking process with which the rich Ramen broth is prepared, with pork or chicken bones boiled along with seafood and vegetables for many hours. In the preparation of everything on offer, there is no effort spared in bringing out the best, an example is with the cha shu (sliced roast pork) being boiled in the base broth of 2 hours and simmered in a special sauce for a further 3 hours. We had two sample sized portions to start our food journey, one was of the Original Miso Noodles which came complete with a ramen egg that is soft boiled as the write-up provided described it, to perfection and the other, of the Stamina Noodles, made to last a long time in the tummy (hence “stamina”). With both, the rich broth was certainly a treat, and certainly as ramen food for the soul goes, provides not just the soul, but also the palate and one’s stomach with a wonderful treat.

Dikokuya Original Miso Ramen

Chef Suzuki of Daikokuya giving an introduction of the offerings at the modern version of a ramen-ya.

Stamina Ramen.

The sample size Original Miso Ramen - complete with a piece of a soft-boiled egg. Daikokuya uses organic eggs in their dishes.

The sample sized Stamina Ramen.

Moving on, we next found ourselves at Bakerzin Artisan Bread. Bakerzin is already well established in Singapore and well known for its sweet treats, and the Bakerzin Artisan Bread provides the group with another dimension, being the first store in the group dedicated to a variety of European inspired breads, bringing Daniel Tay, the founder of the group back to his roots – baking bread. I have always been one for bread – and a good loaf of freshly baked bread is something that I can never resist. It is the aroma of freshly baked bread that often draws me to a bakery – and that is something that is certainly evident at Bakerzin Artisan Bread, with a display of hard crusted European styled breads that makes me go weak at the knees. What’s catches the eye is not just the bread, but bottles of jams that makes the mouth water, as well as a display of cheeses that would certainly complement the bread on offer. The artisan bread we were told are made using only French whole wheat flour, made from the endosperm of wheat grain, which besides being lower in protein and gluten, is higher in starch and has a distinct darker colour – giving the breads a rich flavour and colour, of which we had a sample of, along with a selection of colourful and uniquely flavoured macaroons, all of which did not disappoint.

Bakerzin Artisan Bread offers a range of hard crusted European styled breads that makes me go weak at the knees.

A range of cheeses is also on offer at the Bakerzin Artisan Bread outlet ...

... along with a range of jams ...

From European styled breads, we moved to a Mediterranean inspired deli, Gastronomia Da Paolo. There we met with Marina, who having just arrived from the fashionable city of Milan, had to deal with a whole bunch of hungry bloggers. The deli, which stocks essentials for Italian cooking including pasta, olive oil, and even wine, all sourced directly from Italy (it helps that Marina’s father knows the suppliers), aslo serves a selection of pizza and pasta, as well as sandwiches … perfect for a quick and tasty bite – or to pack for a picnic. We had selection of pizza to sample, just how I like my pizza, thin crust and loaded with toppings. My favourite was the Salmon pizza with its wonderful flavour derived from a complement of pesto. To top that off, Italian bubbly in the form of Prosecco was served and the short visit to the deli was completed with a a wonderful Tiramisù, made with rich Valrhona chocolate and Mascarpone cheese.

Marina of Gastronomia Da Paolo.

A little slice of heaven ... loved the taste of the pesto that went with the Smoked Salmon Pizza!

I liked the Salami Pizza too!

Prosecco ... Italian bubbly being poured ....

... certainly complemented the food on offer ...

Couldn't resist the Tiramisù ... made with rich Valrhona chocolate and Mascarpone cheese ...

... and neither could Cherie ...

Moving up, we moved to Old Hong Kong Taste, part of the Old Hong Kong Group of restaurants started by Victoria Li, a resident in Singapore who is from Hong Kong. Her motivation was to bring a taste of the real Hong Kong to Singapore which she and some of her fellow Hong Kongers felt was missing from Singapore. In Old Hong Kong one will find a rich selection of traditional Hong Kong dishes and new age ones that have been adapted from the old taste of Hong Kong. The decor and accompanying porcelain of the restaurant was carefully selected to reflect the location – with a garden theme with butterflies for the setting of a garden – Serangoon Garden … We had a taste of the amazingly tender Flaming Kurobuta Pork with Danggui Sauce, something that seemed to melt in one’s mouth together with the rich sauce that surprising isn’t bitter, but accompanied the juicy pieces of Kurobuta pork excellently. The second item we tasted was a fusion of tastes, the Deep Fried Prawn with Durian Paste and Maltesers that went very well together …. we were told that the restaurant is particularly well patronised during the weekends and also serves a selection of Dim Sum, and reservations are recommended …

Flaming Kurobuta Pork with Danggui Sauce ...

The tender and succulent pieces of Kurobuta Pork seemed to just melt in my mouth ...

Deep Fried Prawn with Durian Paste and Maltesers (yes, you read right!) ....

The last stop on the culinary adventure was Chinta Manis, or Sweet Love … and for those with a love of the sweet Nonya cakes, the Chinta Manis Peranakan Patisserie is a must visit. The third of three stores in Singapore, the so called Patisserie aims to please with a selection of good hand-made Nonya kueh-kueh, in which traditional methods are employed, as well as of Western styled cakes. We had a taste of the very interesting Chendol Agar Agar – a layered combination of the different flavours of Chendol into a piece of jelly … not the Chendol I am used to, but one that I can certainly take to, as well as of the Chocolate Ecstasy Cake … rich and moist and made from Valrhona chocolate – enough to send one into chocolate heaven … It was a perfect way I guess to end the evening … and with the intimate knowledge that I am now equipped with of some of what is on offer at the new mall … it does look like, barely into the second quarter of the year, it would be a tough ask for me to keep my New Year’s resolution to shed a few pounds … for yet another year …

Chinta Manis is located in the Basement of myVillage.

Chinta Manis offers a selection of hand-made Nonya Kueh ...

one of my favourites ... Kueh Dadar ...

Sambal Udang ... or Lemper Udang ... another of my all time favourites.

The very rich Chocolate Ecstasy Cake ...

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The smells of the Toa Payoh that I grew up in

7 07 2010

For some reason I seem to be dwelling on the subject of the smells I was familiar with in my childhood. Having revisited the smells of the seaside and that of fermented shrimp, I am now revisiting some of the aromas that I grew up smelling in Toa Payoh. There was the smell of curry puffs that greeted me through the front door of course, as well as the “fowl” smell of poultry and the wonderful aroma of spices that I encountered in the market. There were also the two glorious aromas that I distinctly remembered. The first being the rich robust aroma that came wafted up from the market area each morning which always was accompanied by the sight of a man turning a cylindrical object fashioned out of a steel drum over a charcoal fire burning in half of another steel drum placed below it. That was the aroma of coffee being roasted at the end of Block 94 by what I assume would have been the proprietor of the coffee shop before Lee Nam Kee took over the premises and made a fortune over Soya Sauce Chicken Rice. It is probably hard to imagine it today, and I am not sure if it was indeed my imagination, but I very distinctly remember the rich aroma reaching my nose from 19 floors down and across Lorong 4. That would sometimes draw me out to the common corridor facing Lorong 4, from which I would be able to watch the man in the white tee-shirt turning the drum very slowly.

There is nothing like the rich robust aroma of coffee beans being roasted.

Another aroma that I would grow accustomed to inhaling in Toa Payoh was the smell of freshly baked bread. That would come from the bakery at the corner of Block 47 off Lorong 6. I loved the aroma so much that I often made it a point to ask my grandmother to take me past the bakery on her evening walks, where we would be greeted not just by the aroma of freshly baked bread being taken out from the old style ovens, but also by the sight of loafs of bread being left to cool on racks and a busy baker slicing off the crust of loaves of bread on the large work table, slicing the spongy soft white bread and packing them into plastic bags ready for sale. Wandering around Toa Payoh, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bakery is still there, going about its business in very much the same way. And in passing by, I was brought back to the smells of my childhood once again.

There's nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread.

The Singapore Bakery in Toa Payoh.