Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Travel Finds: Batam Island, Indonesia

Batam Island is one of the nearest islands to Singapore. Due to it's geographical location, it's a popular day tour destination for visitors and locals of the lion city. I've been intrigued by this island for I heard numerous nice talks about it. That actually gave me enough reason to pay a visit. When we reached the place, momentarily I felt like I was in one of the towns of Batangas in the Philippines. The ambiance is pretty much the same. However, I would attest that we have far better beaches back home. All at once I missed those powdery, white sands we used to enjoy. With regards to the day tour, I have mixed opinions. There's really not much to see in the island. In fact, a day is more than enough to explore it. Anyhow, the typical itinerary will include a visit to the Buddhist Temple, Spa, Dried Fish Market, Shopping Mall, Outlet Stores (buy only RL as it's the only guaranteed authentic brand), Golden Prawn Seafood Restaurant and the Village for Miniature Indonesian Houses. I really appreciated the later hence, I'm sharing a few shots of those cute, little houses in this post. I'm looking forward to seeing the real ones next time.


















Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MEDIUM RAW by Anthony Bourdain

The moment I learned that the new book of renowned chef and tv host Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw - A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook was launched, I immediately phoned the nearest bookstore to reserve a copy. When I finally got hold of it and started to flip through the pages, I simply can't put it down. This is a "meet the real deal of the story" kind of read. Transparent, outright, at some point maybe brutal with some words. But I guess that's the rough side of Bourdain that we all find intriguingly likeable. There's this element of "truth or believability" in his words. A credibility that he earned by sharing his own, deeply rich culinary experiences.
In this book, he shares with us the same personality we learned to love in the tube. He also walks us through the world of chefs and other food celebrities. There might be varying opinions on how Bourdain tackles the core of Food Shows. At any rate, it provides a provocative yet fascinating peek to what's inside the world of food and the people who cook. That's why it's called a bloody valentine.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Food & Travel ASIA

A numerable travels to some countries in ASIA have widen my appreciation of its culture and all the more of its cuisine. Food in this territory is arguably among the most interesting in the world. The abundance of aromatics, spices and herbs that go with its dishes, proves no wrong that every morsel in its steaming pot promises to bring a lasting gastronomic memory. Perhaps, so much so that I can recall vividly how my taste buds were romanced many times over with wonderful sensory experiences. If I could borrow the paradox of one writer, indeed, "like all foodies who travel, I have tasted more than I remember and remembered more than I have tasted."
In this post, I intend to walk down memory lane and relive my best foodie finds in the countries that truly left a conspicuous ensemble of culinary mirth in me. The first country that I set foot into outside of my birthplace is home to the finest fermented bean paste and the genuinely, fiery spiced Kimchi, South Korea. I have been and always will be fascinated by the festivity of korean cuisine. I have never seen a dining table as busy as the koreans'. I am usually in awe whenever I sat at a dining table in a korean restaurant. I oftentimes got bemused yet enticed by the seemingly endless flow of dishes to be had. For an unforgettable meat taste, nothing compares to the juicy, succulent, meat superiority of their Beef Bulgogi. This is supreme beef dish to relish especially when wrapped with leafy vegetables. I've tasted the best authentic in Shilla Hotel. Other must try dishes are Galbisal, Bibimbap, Topokki and Champong Noodles. Likewise, there are notable snacking treats like Jwipo or Dried Squids and Dried seaweeds. These are the must grabs in streets and expressway stops.


My next destination was Singapore, the country which little did I know will be my second homeland years after. A multifarious culinary cauldron is what best describe this island estate. It is only in this country where a mix and match of flavors and a quest to the familiar and unusual are all possible. From the historical fusions of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Tamil and Western cultures, the food fare is made into a mixture of old and new. My early favorites upon relocating here are the classics Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa, Bak Kut Teh, Nasi Lemak, Satay and of course the world famous Chili Crab. I am looking forward to that day when I can duplicate the same lip smacking goodness of this dish in my own kitchen.



Next, the land of the rising sun is the haven of my favorite asian eats. When asked what cuisine I love, the outright answer I normally give is Japanese. Subtle yet sophisticated, light yet rich, elegant yet simple, the juxtaposition of these flavor elements is something distinctively japanese. Japanese food is something to emulate but hardly equaled. It exudes paramount freshness and elegance. From steaming hot noodles to cold salads, to exquisite hand rolls Sushi and Maki, to deep fried stuffs Tempura and Karaage, to pan-fried Gyoza, Teriyaki and Okonomiyaki and to the well praised Kobe Beef, the list of the finest can go on and on. But the clear cut definition of a well deserved Michelin Stars is undoubtedly right in the alleys of this country. I will never forget how a bowl of noodles can actually transcend a real comforting treat. Each slurp is like heaven on earth.



Further down Japan, another booming vessel of great feasts awaits food enthusiasts. Not too long ago, my wandering palate found its way to the capital city of Taiwan and enjoyed more than a slice of its food heritage. Street foods, food court meals and night market gourmand treasures left a truly memorable mark from my visit here. In fact, 4 posts have been made about it in this blog. Adventurous, daring and odd yet tasty, intriguing and equally satisfying are its gustatory offering. The Stinky Tofu experience alone is already an unforgettable taste throwdown. What more, dining in a one of a kind Toilet Restaurant? That's by far one of the most out of the ordinary experiences I had.


Talk about well labored meals and cooking, the next country (that's also dear to me) is well known for this. By and large, Thailand is considered one of the most spice-wealthy in culinary. I will lose count if I try to give a run down of the spices typically used in their cooking. If only for the number of ingredients used, a Thai dish actually fits for a royalty. Where else can you find a food that tastes salty, sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time? This trademark is markedly embedded in Thai Cuisine. Wether the food is prepared from a lavish restaurant or from a humble food cart, the same balance of taste is guaranteed down to the last gulp. While I've yet to stir up a more satisfying Pad Thai, the best that I had was still the one that's served in the street side. Further, finding the right place to dine for the most talked about dishes like Tom Yum, Curry, Phat si-io, Som tam is never a problem at all, much less in searching for the best tasting local delicacies as food mementos. Food is everywhere. Good food for that matter.


And last but definitely not the least, China hold the pit stop of my Food Safari. If I would make an apt descriptor for each of the provinces I have visited in the mainland, Chengdu will definitely speaks of chili and high level of hotness. Ma Po Dou Fu and Sichuan Chicken are standard examples of fiery eats from this region. Shanghai on the other hand is known for its "wine or alcohol cooking". Anything that's fresh and live is practically drunken. Apart from that, I have tasted the best Chow Mein and Yang Chow Fried Rice somewhere in Pudong area. Since it's written in Chinese, it's a pity that I forgot the name of the restaurant. Guangzhou, is surprisingly the most daring of Chinese Cuisines. I was introduced to exotic eats here. Much to any foreigner's surprise yet questionable delight, meats initially perceived as familiar would turn out to be no less some ill-favored snakes, dogs and rabbits. This is the place where anything that literally walks, swims, crawls and flies is captivated into the heated pot. On the whole, the essential element in Chinese Cooking is largely influenced by heat and fire. These flavor notes are delicately and tirelessly incorporated into the dish through the manner of cooking. Thus far, any dish that goes to the palate is a culinary surrender.

"The world is like a book and those who do not travel read only a page. Those who do not sample the food, hold only the cover." For what I had so far, I'm exultant that I've started flipping through the pages. I simply look forward to go over the rest.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My BLOOK in the making...

I am bringing this blog to the next level! This is a vow that I will be committed to in the next months or year to come. I think I've mentioned in passing in one of my posts before that I am writing a Food Book. But why do I call it a Food Book and not the typical Cook Book, you may ask. For me, these two are still discernible from each other. Cook Book is defined by Wikipedia as a book that contains information on cooking. It generally has a collection of recipes.
What I have in the works has something more than just that. Like what I've shared in my interview with OMY for the Singapore Blog Awards 2010, I want the blog to talk about more than just a dish or a recipe. In my Blook (Blog-Book), I would like to adapt the same principle. Hence, without preempting anything, I would like to offer a reading that will warm the heart with accompanying foods that will make family meals at home a must. Thank you to my contemporary bloggers who in some way have influenced me in pursuing this next stage in as far as my love for food and writing is concerned. I know this is the most daring project yet for the food blogger in me. I fervently wish for its realization and success. I am still in the look for the publisher who would be willing to take this pursuit with me. Suggestions and referrals are very much welcome. Just drop me an email at sjm(underscore)bernardo(at)yahoo(dot)com. My heartfelt thanks is sent in advance. (Stay tuned for this post until the manuscript has been completed). =)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken Macaroni Salad with Cashew Nuts

There are food items that are very flexible in terms of consumption (i.e. those that can be eaten in various meal occasions). One good example of which is salad. It can be served either as an appetizer, a dessert, a snack or even a meal. With its flexibility, also comes a great deal of variety. There are those that are considered light and healthy. At the same time there are those that will suffice as a complete meal due to the high calorie content. The featured recipe below fits into the later. Macaroni salad can be regarded as one of the standard salads in Philippine Cuisine. It's typically found on the dining table during special occasions. In our household, we need not wait for any particular occasion to enjoy ample servings of it. Especially so when there are adorable requests from family members that calls to be granted.
Personally, I have developed a liking for this kind of salad. I pretty much grew up with it. Anyhow, what's not to be liked about it? Every dollop of this mixture renders a creamy, rich, sweet-savoury taste. The union of the different flavors from fresh spices, vegetables and fruits gives a mellow-luscious bite. To give it a twist, I added some cashew nuts. Apart from the nutty taste, it also adds another dimension to the texture of the dish. I kid you not, this is toothsome! What you need:


250 g elbow macaroni pasta (cooked according to package directions; drained)
250 g chicken breast (boiled and shredded)
1 cup pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup cheddar cheese (cut into small cubes)
1/4 cup raisins
1 small carrots (blanched and cut into small cubes)
1 med sized onion (finely chopped)
1/4 cup cashew nuts (roasted and unsalted)
470 ml mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

How to make:


Toss all ingredients in a salad bowl. Stir in mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great Singapore Sale 2010

It's been 3 weeks now since the Great Singapore Sale - GSS was launched island wide. To bargain hunters, seasoned shoppers and shopaholics, GSS can be touted as supreme sale madness. To most of them, this is a much awaited annual event. As others would coin it, it's "the sale that's worth waiting for." Discounts, freebies, promos, rebates and more lure all shopping patrons. You need not head to any specific place just to grab the much coveted savings. Anywhere in the country is on sale!
Be it in the heart of the frisky Orchard Road or Marina Centre or even in the outskirts of the city, great bargain fare abounds. What's more, there are chances of winning in the lucky draws that most shopping malls are giving away. But what could even be more exciting are the special events that coincide with the sale season. There's the Singapore Arts Festival (until June 13), River Festival (June 25 - July 3), Garden Festival (July 15 - 22), Night Festival (July 16 - 17) and the one I'm very much looking forward to - the Food Festival (July 16 - 25). I wonder how the 5 chinese dialects will be mirrored into the dishes. The gourmand in me can hardly wait.
Collectively, staging this kind of event is a very clever pursuit by the Singapore Tourism Board. Having GSS is truly something to emulate in promoting tourism for the country and at the same time in bringing more valuable revenue to the economy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Seafood Feast at CHINATOWN

My Love affair with Seafood is far from over. In fact, it has just started; only this time around it's in a new land. From occasional visits to street hasheries locally acclaimed for serving delish eats, I braved the area of Chinatown for the same objective - a hunt to a mouthwatering smorgasboard of seafood dishes. Prior to my dining experience, must I give Chinatown a pleasing nod to its well maintained dining area. Truly astonished and pleased I was with how clean the food place was kept. Without trying to be mean or offending, it's my first time to dine in a Chinatown less the stinky smell nor the unwanted flies or insects which are sometimes common in an open-air dining set up. I was truly amused to find that fundamental trademark of Singapore even in Chinatown. (Should you think otherwise, I was speaking from what was before me the day I went and it's actually commendable.)
Olde Cuban (BA DAO GUAN) in No. 2 Trengganu St., was our host for lunch in a fine yet very warm afternoon. With the heat enrobing us, we want nothing but good food. Fortunately, our instinct didn't fail us. We stumbled upon sumptuous fare and every morsel we had is a joy to the palate.

Yang chow Fried Rice - tastes like the typical fried rice


Baby Kailan Stir Fried with Minced Garlic - a perfect complement alongside any seafood dish for its light and subtle taste


Steamed Hongkong Style Sea Bass - so fresh and succulent that your mouth will just keep on asking for more, the sauce is mildy soured by plum and lightly spiced with ginger



Crunchy Oat-Fried Prawns - the crunchiness is just right that the shell can also be eaten, creamy and really tasty, the taste of the curry leaf blends well with the oats

Chili Crab - the star of the seafood feast! hot & spicy, creamy, saucy, with a hint of sour, the sauce is undoubtedly finger licking good!


For the scrumptious taste that gives gratifying oomph and gusto, this is simply the place where I want to be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Love Hawker Food Kit

As part of the on-going search for Singapore's biggest Hawker Food Lover, the organizers sent lovely kits to food bloggers around (yours truly included). Thank you to the InSing Team for the hand delivered "We Love Hawker Food Kit"! I even got my own personalized chopsticks! That's really cute! The distinctive Kopi Glass, hand towels and facial tissue with a special tag "Got People Sitting Here!" indeed expressed an ambrosial sense of Hawker Food Culture. A Hawker Centre feel can never be more homey with all these within just my arms reach.
I share the excitement of finding what else Singapore has in-store for its already well fed flock. It's even more interesting to dig into its world recognized culinary pot to search for the unraveled food treasures. So, to all the food afficionados out there, you only have until July 9 to join in this contest. Beyond the cash price and a DSLR camera, this for sure can be a taste trek of a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our Taste of Vegetables : Dou Miao (Snow Pea Shoots) & Okra (Lady's Finger)

Apart from Seafood, Vegetables are equally abundant around the island. Going green and healthy diet wise, is no difficult to adapt. Some of my colleagues at work introduced me to a few of the most common and favorite local vegetable dishes. My interest was caught by the popular Dou Miao or Snow Pea Shoots. I had my first taste of this flavorful veggie in Long Beach Seafood Restaurant. It goes very well with a lot of minced garlic. If cooked just right, the crunchy texture of the shoots provides a good mouthfeel. Indeed, it's a delicacy in its own right. I tried to cook it at home and was pleased with the outcome.
Stir-Fried Dou Miao
How to make: Heat 2 tbsps of canola oil in a wok. Stir-fry minced garlic (as generous as you may want) until fragrant. Add in Dou Miao and stir-fry until tender. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Another interesting find is Okra (Lady's Finger). Although this is a vegetable that can be easily found anywhere in the world or at least in Asia, the varieties of dishes that can be made out of it is diverse. I am used to having it simply steamed or blanched and dipped into soy-kalamansi sauce. Sometimes, it's also added in vegetable salad paired with sauted shrimp paste. Now, my exposure to Kopitiam & Hawker Center foods introduced me to new ways of cooking it. One of my current choice is the hot & spicy one. This is why I came up with my own version of Chili - Garlic Okra.
How to make: Heat 2 tbsps canola oil in a wok. Saute chopped onion and minced garlic until fragrant. Add in okra (cut in diagonals) and stir-fry until tender. Stir in 1 tbsp chili-garlic sauce. Season with 1 tbsp soy sauce and mix well.

The supermarket shelves are filled with a lot of healthy items and vegetable definitely makes a very fitting choice. It does feel good to veer away from sinful stuffs from time to time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

BAO GONG XO FISH HEAD BEE HOON Restaurant

I keep on coming back to this XO Seafood restaurant in Clementi West for a number of times now. If there's one type of resto that I would be more than willing to visit, it's that kind which offers any seafood cuisine. This is precisely one of the major things I'm loving in Singapore. The abundance of seafood dishes is heaven to embrace. Apart from the famous East Cost Seafood Centre that houses a long strip of seafood restaurants, there are hawkers centers or open-air cafes (normally situated on the ground level of HDB buildings) that equally boast of quality seafood treats. Bao Gong XO Fish Head Bee Hoon is considered among the most popular in this category. In terms of ambiance, this is certainly what you see is what you get. But that doesn't necessarily translates to the quality of foods in-store. This is more of getting the value of your money's worth beyond expectation.


Sum Lo Hor Fun - has subtle creaminess, oily in mouthfeel, mild in overall taste, with distinct fish & bean sprouts flavor notes

Prawn Paste Chicken - simply crispy & tasty!

Stir-fry Kailan Vegetables - cooked just to the right tenderness, yummy!


Cereal Prawn - crispy, oily, shrimps were a tad overcooked


Prawn Roll - delish & creamy, plain acceptable


If most of the times we can only regard the dining experience in a certain place by trying it out more than once, I need not consider that for Bao Gong XO. I know at the onset that this unpretentious restaurant is a hit. However, it's likewise far from perfect. There are occasions that the food maybe cooked not to your own liking or preference (i.e. tough texture, too oily mouthfeel etc.). Taste wise, it promises to satisfy and gives that value for money kind of feast. In essence, it still is one dining place deserving of a visit.

BAO GONG XO FISH HEAD BEE HOON Restaurant

I keep on coming back to this XO Seafood restaurant in Clementi West for a number of times now. If there's one type of resto that I would be more than willing to visit, it's that kind which offers any seafood cuisine. This is precisely one of the major things I'm loving in Singapore. The abundance of seafood dishes is heaven to embrace. Apart from the famous East Cost Seafood Centre that houses a long strip of seafood restaurants, there are hawkers centers or open-air cafes (normally situated on the ground level of HDB buildings) that equally boast of quality seafood treats. Bao Gong XO Fish Head Bee Hoon is considered among the most popular in this category. In terms of ambiance, this is certainly what you see is what you get. But that doesn't necessarily translates to the quality of foods in-store. This is more of getting the value of your money's worth beyond expectation.

Sum Lo Hor Fun - has subtle creaminess, oily in mouthfeel, mild in overall taste, with distinct fish & bean sprouts flavor notes
Prawn Paste Chicken - simply crispy & tasty!

Stir-fry Kailan Vegetables - cooked just to the right tenderness, yummy!

Cereal Prawn - crispy, oily, shrimps were a tad overcooked

Prawn Roll - delish & creamy, plain acceptable
If most of the times we can only regard the dining experience in a certain place by trying it out more than once, I need not consider that for Bao Gong XO. I know at the onset that this unpretentious restaurant is a hit. However, it's likewise far from perfect. There are occasions that the food maybe cooked not to your own liking or preference (i.e. tough texture, too oily mouthfeel etc.). Taste wise, it promises to satisfy and gives that value for money kind of feast. In essence, it still is one dining place deserving of a visit.