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My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

I always dreamed of trying and experiencing something unique. Sort of like marking significant milestones in my life. One such milestone is cheating death by eating Fugu or what is commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish.

Fugu? What is Fugu (Pufferfish aka Blowfish)?

For those wondering what Fugu is, National Geographic nicely describes this deadly fish as:

ABOUT PUFFERFISH

Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

Toxicity

A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I was about to put something 1200 times deadlier than cyanide on my plate and hope to almighty God that I don’t die from it.

Well sort of.

Pufferfish, if prepared correctly is not toxic. Only certain parts of the fish will cause death if ingested. The emphasis here is “if prepared correctly”.

If done wrongly, I would be 6 feet under.

Evidently, I didn’t die. If not, you will be the first person reading a blog entry from the other world.

How does Pufferfish Taste Like?

I had it in Tokyo, Japan after my whirlwind tour of Hokkaido with my girlfriend where we visited Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru. It was our last meal in Tokyo and we wanted to try something unique.

We went for Fugu at Torafugu-tei near the famous Shibuya Crossing. You can’t miss it since it has a huge ass Fugu right above the store front!

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This restaurant serves a variety of Fugu called “Tiger Blowfish”.

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Great to know that the restaurant serves “Only the safest product”

There’s a la carte and also meal courses on offer. When we were there, there were two courses on offer. One going for 4,980 yen before taxes. The other going for 6,480 yen before taxes. While we were a little puzzled by the menu, there appears to be only minor differences with the menu (the more expensive comes with “Deep Fried Blowfish” while the cheaper menu instead comes with “Blowfish under-skin”), we decided to go big (if it’s going to be our last meal after all) and ordered the 6,480 yen set.

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First up, came the Blowfish Skin. If you had jellyfish before, it has a similar chewy texture. It was very refreshing due to the sauce it was served in. It was citrusy like a mix of soy sauce and some kind citrus fruit. The grated ginger (that reddish thing) was not overpowering and helped balance out any fishiness (although I didn’t feel that the dish was at all fishy in taste). I would have loved it even more if it had been a hot summer day as the dish was served chilled.

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Blowfish Sashimi was up next. Surprisingly, unlike our typical experience with Japanese Sashimi, it was not served with wasabi. Instead, again you find a small portion of ginger on the side to go with your soy sauce. There was also a slice of lime, if required. This was, I think, the key point in the meal as you get to experience the actual taste of fugu. Its surprisingly neutral tasting and very “clean” tasting. It doesn’t have a taste per se unlike Salmon and/or Tuna. Or it’s just me not having grown up with fugu and not recognising a “fugu” taste. The flesh is very firm and slightly chewy. Likely from all that muscle gained from puffing away? I actually felt something while having the sashimi. My lips felt slightly numb. Was it just my brain working overtime or was it really true that a master fugu chef will just leave a slight amount of toxin on the flesh to tease diners?

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Blowfish hotpot. Yep, we graduated from the raw food portion of the meal. So, what happened was the restaurant staff had laid out a sort of paper bowl in the middle of the table that is above an induction heater. The bowl had a metal piece in it that heats up the broth. The broth was very simple (essentially a piece of seaweed to give some flavour). I guess the idea was to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the blowfish. Any heavier and/or stronger tasting broth would have covered the little taste of the fugu. We were told to cook between 6-7 minutes per piece (longer for bigger pieces and shorter for smaller pieces). The flesh, when boiled, was tender. There was no fishy smell at all. For those who are used to having fish soup of some kind, you will normally assume to soup to have some kind of fishy taste/smell to it. Oddly, there was none. It really goes towards showing how neutral tasting the fish actually is. I did try drinking of the broth towards the end. It was a pleasant tasting soup with a slight sweetness from all those vegetables that came with the hotpot. But not much taste attributable to the fugu itself. HINT: Don’t drink too much of the broth. One or two spoonsful is/are good enough as the broth has one more task to perform.

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Midway into our hotpot came the fried blowfish. Make a guess what did it taste like. Like fried chicken, of course. Honestly, I believe you can actually pass off fried fugu as a nice piece of fried chicken. The entire thing was crispy and tender. Absolutely delightful.

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Blowfish Porridge. Well, there is no blowfish involved here. Instead, the staff will prepare the porridge at your table using the broth leftover from the hotpot. They will add in a bowl of rice to soak in all that goodness before pouring in an egg for flavour before topping it off with some spring onions and some soy sauce. It was more than plenty for the two of us. We found that the waitress was a bit light on the soy sauce and we decided to add it a bit more. The porridge evolves with time. At first, its watery before turning thick after absorbing in all that broth. I found it to be very filling and my advice is that if you think you are already about full, you might want to ask the waitress to cut back on the rice so that you won’t have too much porridge.

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We ended our meal with a small dessert – a mini ice cream sandwich.

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Post fugu meal – I didn’t die!!!

As time ticked by, I knew I was safe. I cheated death.

Would I recommend Fugu? Yes! Definitely. I do think most should at least try it once during their lifetime. But do remember to have it at proper establishments with proper fugu chefs. While deaths do occur, they can be attributed to amateurs who had no idea what they were actually doing.

Have you tried fugu? Let me know in the comments.

As usual, please remember to LIKE and if you haven’t done so already, please FOLLOW!

 

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Review: Muching on Shark’s Cartilage @ Zai Shun, Jurong, Singapore

Review: Muching on Shark’s Cartilage @ Zai Shun, Jurong, Singapore

For the many who hesitate consuming sharks because of the industry’s horrible reputation of harvesting sharks just for their fins, take consolation that there are restaurants out there making an effort to branch out away from just using the fins to also use other parts of a shark. Not only are such steps significant in reducing waste, they encourage the average fisherman to bring back the entire shark back to port instead of simply dumping the finless sharks back into the ocean. Such innovations in cooking styles also bring different flavours and textures to the dining table.

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head

One such restaurant is called Zai Shun with their large variety of seafood dishes on offer to their diners. Incidentally, Zai Shun was awarded the Bib Gourmand by Michelin for 2017. The Bib Gourmand Award recognises “restaurants and street food establishments offering quality cuisine at a maximum price of S$45”. Zai Shun was the only restaurant in the Jurong East area that was recognised by Michelin.

Zai Shun

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head

 

Shark’s cartilage

While Zai Shun is known for their steamed fish and their large variety of fishes to choose from, Zai Shun is also known for its Shark’s cartilage served with a generous amount fermented bean sauce and pork lard:

Zai Shun - Shark's Cartilage

Shark’s cartilage with fermented bean sauce and pork lard

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Close up shot of a piece of shark’s cartilage

 

The dish is best eaten fresh and just out of the steamer. The cartilage itself is tasteless but has a very rich gelatinous texture that goes well with the fermented bean sauce which completes the dish. The cartilage makes a good a side dish with rice given the strong flavours of the fermented bean sauce. I am, however, skeptical regarding the addition of lard in the dish. While the lard may have helped with the taste, I don’t think it is essential to make it into a good dish as most of the flavours would have come from the fermented bean sauce anyway. While best eaten when it is still warm, the dish was still good after a while although the gelatinous texture might come through as being too much for some and may leave a sticky feel on your lips which can be easily dealt with using a piece of tissue paper.

Stewed Pig Trotters

Other than their steamed seafood, another dish that I found to be notable would be their pig trotters that have been stewed to the point that the skin and meat just fall off the bone. This makes it easy for a trotter to be shared as you can easily separate out the meat into smaller serving portions. Be sure to get yourself some of their garlic chilli vinegar sauce. The vinegar helps cut through the fats of the pork trotter and enhances the overall taste while the garlic and chilli both add onto the already flavourful stewed pork.

Zai Shun - Pork Trotters

It is advisable to go there early to not only beat the lunch crowd but also to have a greater variety of dishes to choose from. When we reached there around 1.30pm in the afternoon, most of the dishes were already sold out.

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, #01-205 First Cooked Food Point, 253 Jurong East Street 24, Singapore 600253, 7am to 3pm. Closed on Wednesdays.

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Super Makan Asia’s Beef Rendang – Food Review

Super Makan Asia’s Beef Rendang – Food Review

Super Makan Asia @ Tiong Bahru Plaza

During one of our quick short lunch outings, my colleagues and I headed over to Tiong Bahru Plaza (if you followed my blog from its infant days, you would have read my short post on this hidden gem).

Instead of some restaurant or a fancy eatery that would normally have justified the train ride out of the city area into the suburbs, my colleagues brought me to a small eatery at the basement of Tiong Bahru Plaza called “Super Makan Asia” (SMA).

The eatery can seat at most 25 diners at any one time and serves simple local fare at affordable prices between SGD 4 to SGD 6.50.

I was deciding between having their Nasi Lemak (check out my other post where I had Nasi Lemak from another stall that is frequented by dignitaries including the Sultan of Brunei) or their Beef Rendang.

For those uninitiated, “Rendang is a popular dish of meat stewed in coconut milk and spices, commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.” Singaporeinfopedia describes it as:

The meat, usually beef but sometimes chicken or mutton, is stewed in coconut milk with spices such as ginger, chillies, galangal (blue ginger), lemongrass, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. A wide rather than a deep pot is preferred to allow the milk to evaporate during a slow boil of up to three hours. Skill is required to ensure the liquid does not overboil and cause the milk to curdle. However, if the fire is too low, the meat could burn. Correctly cooked, the liquid will thicken into the distinctive rendang gravy. This cooking process has several purposes – it adds flavour to the meat as it is braised in the spices; it softens and tenderises the meat as the dish dries up; and it enhances the preservation of the dish, allowing it to remain edible even two to three days later without refrigeration or up to two weeks in the refrigerator. The dish is best eaten with rice and is sometimes consumed with ketupat (steamed pressed rice). It is more often served in hawker centres as one of several dishes in nasi padang.

I decided to go for their Rendang. As the portion appeared small on the menu, I decided to add one bowl of curry vegetables as a side:

Super Makan Asia Beef Rendang

Curry Vegetables at Super Makan Asia

My verdict?

Skip the vegetables and just go for the Rendang.

The eatery offers a no frills experience with their Rendang. It is back to the basics of just plain rice with Rendang. I would have preferred slightly softer rice though.

Nothing here that will distract the person from the rich gravy generously coating each tender beef cube. The flavour is intense and is enriched by chunks of fat that gives the dish an extra punch (if you are health conscious just leave those bits on the side). The serving is also commendable unlike those served by normal Nasi Padang stalls. In fact, I think I could have done with two servings of rice for the amount of Rendang on my plate!

At S$6.50 a portion, SMA’s Rendang is, I think, not only value for money but also offer a taste of classic Rendang in a modern setting. SMA’s Rendang deserves one and a half stars out of three. I may just make that trip to have it again.

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Guide/Review: Peranakan Cuisine in Melaka (Nancy’s Kitchen)

Guide/Review: Peranakan Cuisine in Melaka (Nancy’s Kitchen)

Having settled the paperwork and having checked into our hotel in Melaka (also known as Malacca): The Pines Melaka, we were off for lunch. In my view (and I think such a view is shared by many others), a trip to Melaka would not be complete without having tried Peranakan cuisine.

For my foreign friends, I am generalising here when I use the word Peranakan as I am referring to Peranakan Chinese who are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago. If you are being technical, you can also have Indian Peranakans (aka Chitty) being the descendants of Indian immigrants who settled in the region. However, this group appears to be almost lost having been assimilated back into one of their roots (i.e. The Indian, Chinese or Malay communities).

The Peranakans being a mix of Chinese and Malay developed a cuisine that fuses elements from both ethnic groups. For example, you have the typical curries but also the use of pork (haram or forbidden in normal Malay cuisine).

For this trip, we visited Nancy’s Kitchen Restaurant (3.7 Stars on Google Review and 3.5 Stars on TripAdvisor). The restaurant is located at 13 13-1, 13-2, Jalan Kl 3/8 | Taman Kota Laksamana, Seksyen 3.

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Nancy TA

As to how we got there, the easiest option is to Uber or Grab (an Uber equivalent). Avoid the taxis if possible as most drivers there have yet settled with using the meter. Ubering or Grabbing will cost you average MYR5 per ride. Yes, it is that cheap.

When we arrived, we knew we were in the right place as there was a queue outside. The sign placed outside the restaurant directed diners to register themselves in the restaurant by writing down their contact details on a list. The restaurant staff will go down that same list and seat you accordingly. While the restaurant does accept reservations, they do not do reservations for that day itself. So, if you intend to make a reservation, please remember to do it a day before or else you will have to join the queue like I did.

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The waiting time was approximately 30 minutes for me. This allowed me sometime to roam around the block. There is a bakery just beside Nancy’s and if I weren’t as full as I was, I would have bought some of the durian pastry from them.

We were seated on the second floor.

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The menu was wide enough offering diners a range of different peranakan cuisine. One good thing about Nancy’s is its human traffic. The large turnover of customers ensures that they have a sufficient customer base to prepare dishes that is typically time consuming and not worth the hassle if the overall demand is low.  Dishes like Babi Buah Keluak and Nangka Curry were available at Nancy’s.

The prices are affordable at approximately MYR6-8 for simpler dishes like appetizers and vegetables to MYR18 for meat dishes.

We decided to go for dishes that we normally don’t find in Singapore or are not worth its price in Singapore.

Kueh Pie Tee

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As an appetizer, we went with Kueh Pie Tees which are thin and crispy pastry tart shells filled with a spicy, sweet mixture of thinly sliced vegetables topped with a tiny dash of sambal chilli. Each bit size portion is extremely crispy but comes off as being a very light snack as a prelude to the heavyweights later.

Then came the mains. We ordered the classics like Babi Buah Keluak, Chicken Rendang, Assam Prawns, Nangka Curry and  Kerabu Jantung Pisang.

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Babi Buah Keluak

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Babi means pork. So the dish is pork cooked with Buah Keluak.

Buah Keluak is the fruit of a tree native to Indonesia. The entire tree is poisonous but the seeds of the these fruits have been processed (I understand by burying them and later boiling them) to remove any toxins.

What we are after is the black nut paste within the seed. It has a strong nutty flavour (of course, this may be an acquired taste) and matches very well with rice. It was so good that in order to not waste any of this black gold, having dug out most of the paste, I backfilled the shell with rice with the hope that the rice can extract any remaining goodness.

Chicken Rendang

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For those uninitiated, “Rendang is a popular dish of meat stewed in coconut milk and spices, commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.”

Singaporeinfopedia describes it as:

The meat, usually beef but sometimes chicken or mutton, is stewed in coconut milk with spices such as ginger, chillies, galangal (blue ginger), lemongrass, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. A wide rather than a deep pot is preferred to allow the milk to evaporate during a slow boil of up to three hours. Skill is required to ensure the liquid does not overboil and cause the milk to curdle. However, if the fire is too low, the meat could burn. Correctly cooked, the liquid will thicken into the distinctive rendang gravy. This cooking process has several purposes – it adds flavour to the meat as it is braised in the spices; it softens and tenderises the meat as the dish dries up; and it enhances the preservation of the dish, allowing it to remain edible even two to three days later without refrigeration or up to two weeks in the refrigerator. The dish is best eaten with rice and is sometimes consumed with ketupat (steamed pressed rice). It is more often served in hawker centres as one of several dishes in nasi padang.

Assam Prawns

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These prawns stir up your appetite as it is both slightly spicy and also slightly sourish from the tamarind. The chef left the assam seeds (tamarind seeds) which both enhances the taste and also lets the diner know that you are getting the real deal.

By now, I hope, you can see a general trend of Peranakan Cuisine which typically has very flavourful dishes with strong distinct flavours.

Nangka Curry

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Nangka Curry or Jackfruit Curry is another interesting dish showing creative use of an ingredient normally considered as a fruit rather than a vegetable. Instead of letting the fruit mature fully, the unripe fruits are harvested and the flesh used to make type of vegetable curry. In terms of taste and texture, it has more body compared with typical vegetable curries where the vegetables become soft from the cooking process. The jackfruit retains its texture better and after the cook process is soft but not mushy.

Kerabu Jantung Pisang

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Banana blossom salad is another unique dish on the menu. If you tried banana flowers before you will know it has a very strong but refreshing taste to it. You would have tasted such flowers before if you tried Assam Laksa or Chinese Rojak. Such dishes normally come with some shavings of the banana flower.

The flower plays a different role in this dish. Instead of being a “supporting” an ingredient, the flower takes the lead role and makes up the main body of the dish. However, unlike the use of the flower shavings discussed above, the dish does not overpower the senses and was surprisingly mild in taste. Perhaps the cooking process dulls the strong taste of the flower?

Cendol

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I (yes, singular as my mother and girlfriend both gave up towards the end of the meal being too full for dessert) topped up the already heavy meal with an even richer dessert: Cendol.

Cendol is a local dessert found in Southeast Asia and is normally made up of green rice flour jelly with coconut milk and palm sugar served with shaved ice. Variants include red beans, durians and jackfruit. For those interested, cece365 had in her recent blog post discussed how she made her own coconut milk. While I’m no expert, if you intend to make your own coconut milk, be sure to use the first press of the milk instead of the second press (which would be diluted).

In my humble opinion, a good bowl of cendol depends on two ingredients. The dessert must be lemak (i.e. have sufficient coconut milk) and must be doused with a generous amount of palm sugar syrup to give it a rich brown colour and flavour.

And so far, I think Melaka has one of the best cendols. Maybe its because of nostalgic reasons (I have been having good cendols since I was a young kid visiting Melaka) or maybe they have mastered the ratios.

The bowl at Nancy’s, although not the best I had, is still a pretty good bowl of cendol and if I had a bit more space I would have gone for a second bowl.

Have you tried Peranakan food before? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sup Tulang AKA Bone Soup

Sup Tulang AKA Bone Soup

To celebrate my first 20 followers mark (a small win at least), I decided to feast a bit and also allow my readers to get a glimpse of a dish that apparently only exists in Singapore. So, if you are in Singapore, why not give Sup Tulang a try:

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What is Sup Tulang

Unlike what its name suggests, it is not served as a soup. No big bowls of piping hot soup (which is reminiscent of its cousin dish – Kambing Soup (Mutton Soup)) here. Instead, you have this glorious looking plate of mutton bones more akin to a stew. While the dish looks fiery hot with its sweet and spicy red “soup”, the overall heat is mild to moderate depending on your heat tolerance. What makes it red is the tomato puree that is cooked together with the chillies and the other spices.

This dish is associated with the Indian Muslim community but has no actual link to continental India. Singapore Infopedia documents the history of the dish as being created in the 1950’s:

History

Soup tulang is associated with the Indian Muslim community but is considered a Singapore invention. It is believed to have been created in the 1950s at an Indian Muslim stall along Jalan Sultan run by a stallholder named Abdul Kadir. To make the stock for his mee kuah dish, Abdul used mutton bones that he later served as a side dish at the request of a patron.

Abdul’s son, Mohamed Iqbal, continues to sell the fiery red stew consisting of chillies, tomatoes and mutton stock at his popular Haji Kadir stalls at the Golden Mile Food Centre and in Tampines. The Al-Sheik Mee Stall at the Adam Road Food Centre also became well known for its version of the soup flavoured with eggs, spices and various vegetables.

As it evident from the photograph, there is not much meat on the bones. Instead, the dish revolves around the unseen – The bone marrow hidden inside the bones. The marrow is sucked out using (drumroll…) a straw or tapped out of the bone onto a plate. Bread is served on the side to help soak up the red “soup”:

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Where to have Sup Tulang

There are a few stalls scattered around our sunny island that serves Sup Tulang. You can head over to Tekka Market at Little India and there are a couple of stalls serving this dish. If not, you can head over to the place that purportedly invented this dish: Haji Kadir @ Golden Mile Food Centre.

I chose the latter.

One, because I tried those in Little India before.

Two, because of the reputation of Haji Kadir. Anthony Bourdain ate there before and I remember watching how he devoured the marrow and the bits of meat left on the bone.

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Before heading down, I did my prep work. A tip for all those attempting to try Sup Tulang is to bring along a packet of wet tissues. This will help keep the mess in check as you will end up using your hands. No cutlery here.

My Sup Tulang

If you ever wondered how a dog felt munching away on a bone, look no further as you too will enjoy an experience where you will be munching on the soft tendons and also the tender pieces of meat left on the bone whilst holding the bone using both of your hands.

When the dish was served, I decided to dive right in and taste the “soup”. I took a slice of bread and gave it a good dipping into the fiery red gravy. The taste is mildly sweet at first before you start feeling the heat from the chillies. As the gravy was made from mutton stock, the gravy itself was full of flavour.

Then came the essence of the dish. A plastic disposable spoon came with the dish. Ignore the “spoon” side as its largely useless. Instead the trick is to use the “handle” side to dig into the bone and extract the awesome marrow:

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In terms of taste, it’s something unexpected. Its creamy and very rich in flavour. If you ever had a good lamb chop with that tiny bit of fat that comes with the meat, the marrow has the rich taste of the fat but not the oiliness. The marrow just melts in your mouth.

I decided to combine some of the marrow with the gravy and use it as a spread over the bread. My god, it was delicious.

As I was struggling with the spoon and trying to take photographs, the stall assistant took pity on me and passed me a straw. Instead of scooping out the goodness, why not just slurp it all up?!?!

3 bones later, I decided to save the last bone for the finale. I then went for the bits of meat left on the bone. The meat was tender and well flavoured having been cooked with the gravy. The texture is also balanced out with the tendons that gave it some bite and really adds to the experience of you munching away on a delicious bone.

I must have looked pathetic as I was going back to the “expended” bones trying to extract some more marrow from the already emptied bone cavity. One cannot simply get enough of the marrow.

However, all good things must come to an end. As I mopped up the gravy using the remaining slices of bread, I wondered to myself when will my next sup tulang session be.

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Chop Chop Biryani and Meats – Confirm plus chop worth a try

Chop Chop Biryani and Meats – Confirm plus chop worth a try

Confirm plus chop worth a try (Sorry can’t help with the pun and also chance to show case Singlish)

I decided to tag along with my colleagues for lunch and we headed down to Amoy Street Food Centre. For my foreign readers, Amoy Street Food Centre together with Maxwell Food Centre (about 500m or 550 yards away from each other) offer a trove of awesome eats for those who brave the heat to eat at these non-air conditioned venues.

As I normally frequent Maxwell Food Centre and not Amoy Street Food Centre, I did not have any specific stall in mind when heading over for my lunch. Instead, I decided to just see what little treasures I could unearth from my unexpected visit.

Amoy Street Food Centre is spread over two floors. The ground floor has both halal food and also non-halal food. The second floor is non-halal. As my Chinese colleagues were aiming for some fish soup stall on the second floor, we made our way up in the search for some apparently good fish soup.

While I never got to try that fish soup as the queue was surprisingly long even though it was already 1.40pm in the afternoon, I assume it is good and you can try it if you are there (just find the fish soup stall with the longest queue).

Instead, we instead deeper into the complex and something caught my eye. I saw the words “Chop Chop”. The image of a pig. And the words “Biryani and meats”. What an odd combination. Biryani is an Indian dish and typically is halal to cater to the Indian muslims. So it is very interesting to see it being served with what potentially could be pork:

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When I got closer, it is clear that my assumptions were right. Its some Indian-Chinese fusion food stall serving traditional Chinese Roast Pork with Biryani and also other variants:

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Siu Yoke (Roast Pork) $5 / Pork Masala $5 / Blur Sotong (Squid) $5.50 / Char Siew $5.50 / Salted Egg $6

As it was my first time there, I asked the young guy over the counter what’s good. I got an unexpected answer from them. They apparently sold out on all their dishes except for their roast pork. I went along and ordered my Biryani with roast pork.

Out of curiousity, I asked them what were their best sellers and it was according to them their roast pork (yay!) and also their masala pork (another interesting combination). I commented that their dishes involve very unique combinations. To which, they politely thanked me and added that they were still trying out these combinations having just opened 6 weeks earlier. Really awesome stuff to try something new.

Okay back to the overall presentation of the dish. Other than roast pork and Biryani, the dish is normally served with some cabbage, salsa, papadum and also a 5 minute soft boiled egg (reminds me of the flavoured japanese soft boiled eggs). They offered to let me have a taste of their squid version of the dish by scooping a generous serving of their leftover gravy over my rice. As it was late in the day, they had ran out of the cabbage and offered to replace it with more salsa:

 

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Many photos later (definitely more than the photo above), I tucked into my food.

The Biryani is average or slightly above average. I think there are two ways of preparing Biryani. One way is to have the taste of the spice infused into the rice. So while the rice appears to be plain (i.e. you can see the rice grain as is) the rice is packed with the fragrance of the spices. The other way is to load more spice and the rice grain is coated with more spice than the former method. Chop Chop’s approach to this Indian classic involves the latter technique. While I prefer the more subtle approach, their variant is decent.

The game changer I think is  the combination of flavours. I have never ate roast pork with Biryani before. The slight fattiness of the pork provided a different perspective to the Indian classic.

And just before the fattiness and the strong flavours of the Biryani spices overpower the palate, you balance it off with a spoonful of salsa. In a split second, you are brought from continental India over the mountains of Tibet into Southern China before crossing over the Pacific into Central America. You get the freshness of the vegetables from the Salsa and also the refreshing taste of what appeared to me to be coriander. Then the pineapples strike you and adding a tropical twist to what is already an awesome Mexian salsa dip.

Then you have the papadum. The colour of their papadum is somewhat darker and more orangey in colour compared with the others found outside. I found their papadums taste better than most. Another +1 for me.

Just as I was overwhelmed by the flavours, I suddenly remembered I still have that soft boiled egg on my plate. I decided to cut it open with my spoon so as to extract that golden goodness over my Biryani. And the horror happened. It squirted and the yolk splattered across the table towards my unsuspecting colleague. Haha. Another testimony of a perfectly done soft boiled egg:

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No, I did not forget about the squid gravy (for my lawyer friends, I still remember my Chekhov’s gun):

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I had asked what this gravy was made from. The owner / guy at the store said (in somewhat imperfect cantonese or what could have been anglicised pronunciation of the words “金香” (Golden Fragrance). While I had no idea what this meant, further research revealed that it “is a signature Malaysian stir-fry style that is renowned for the fragrance imparted during the cooking process, hence the Cantonese term “Kam Heong (金香)”, which means “Golden Fragrance”.” It “incorporates ingredients from Malay, Chinese, and Indian cooking” and the “main ingredients that give the “Kam Heong” dish its unique taste are fiery bird’s eye chilies, aromatic curry leaves, crispy bits of dried shrimp, savory curry powder and soy bean paste”. True to my research, I remembered munching into bits of dried shrimp when tasting it. While the taste is good, I don’t remember this as well as I did for the rest of the meal. Partly because of the strong flavours of the Biryani which I believe would mask the flavours of the 金香.

I would give it at least a one star (good for its category) out of three. Maybe another half star as I think it may be worth a detour to try it. It was definitely worth it given its affordable price and unique flavours. Confirm plus chop must try. 

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