Big Mama Korean Restaurant: Big & Bold Flavours – Love!

I love Big Mama Korean Restaurant in Tiong Bahru! Flavours here are big, bold and downright satisfying. If you have a massive craving for Korean food, like me last week, Big Mama will undoubtedly satisfy that craving. Two Sunday lunches ago, my family got out of our Japanese-food-comfort zone (I am soo sick of Sushi Tei!) and went out for Korean. For selfish reasons (cupcakes in Tiong Bahru that turned out to be a disappointment), I suggested Big Mama Korean. We have been to Big Mama before, years ago, and knew it to be good. Today I am incredibly happy to announce, the food is still fab!

Big Mama’s kitchen was mighty efficient. My sister arrived first and placed our orders. By the time we landed in the restarant, there was a spread awaiting us. This meant we picked our seats according to the dishes we preferred.

Guess which seat I picked?

Oh yeah!!! I have had a massive craving for Kimchi Pancake for god-knows-how-long so Big Mama’s vemilion hue pancake was calling out to me. After plonking myself right in front of it, I had no regrets for my hangry conduct. The Kimchi Jeon was shiok to another level!

On first bite, the unmistakable sourish taste paired with spiciness was immensely gratifying. Plus the pancake was served thin and perfectly crisp around the edges. Containing a generous amount of fermented cabbage with generous prawns, I promise you, you will reach for thirds, at least. The pancake was so well-seasoned that I completely forgot about dipping into the soy sauce on the side. That good.

The free and refillable of Banchan (side dishes) served alongside was pretty remarkable too. When I was done attacking the Kimchi Pancake, the Banchan got my full attention. I could not get enough of the lotus root slices in a thick sesame sauce. And the acorn jellies topped with soy sauce and scallions, a rarely seen side dish in Singapore, was much appreciated. In all, the Banchan dishes were a great addition to our meal. We got seconds for some of them.

We ordered another Korean pancake that afternoon: Buchu Jeon or Seafood pancake. The traditional and more common Korean pancake, I did not get to try this as my attention was solely on the Kimchi Jeon.

In the middle of the long table was a huge bubbling pot of the Korean Army Stew, Budae Jjigae. A thick spicy stew filled with nothing but nutrition-less ingredients, forget calories and say HELLO to p.l.e.a.s.u.r.e! Containing luncheon meat, sausage slices, baked beans, Korean rice cakes, instant noodles, and Korean dumplings, Mandu. There was an empty-calorie deliciousness for us all. No fighting necessary. I’m salivating just thinking about this pot…

Midway, Big Mama’s famed Dakgalbi arrived and the Budae Jjigae was cast aside (pun totally intended). Described as a “pan fried seasoning chicken with vegetables, rice cake, sweet potato, and spicy sauce”; all you need to know is that if you don’t order this, your heart will never thank you for it. Every ingredient was swathed in this thick and ultra-spicy scary-red sauce. Again, only one word to describe this: shiok!


But that’s not all. When you are almost done with the cubes of tender chicken and cabbage, you ask for two portions of rice. The friendly staff at Big Mama will either come around with a trolley of condiments or take this big pan away. What they do next is almost magical. They dump the metal bowls of rice into the pan, then add in a generous dose of kimchi, laver, sesame oil, and seaweed before mixing it up big time with the fire turned on. Lots of sexy sizzling sounds can be heard. If they mix it up next to you, feel your saliva drippling out your mouth. When the pan of fried rice is served back to you, liberate yourself from the confines of dieting and just indulge…

There is however a massive problem with Big Mama’s Dakgalbi: it is hard to go slow. And you want to go slow because the crispy bits of burnt rice will form below. That will be one of the nicest reward for your patience.

Later, for some strange reason, it seemed like food was not enough for my family of six adults so a Grilled Mackerel (Godeungeo Gui) was ordered. Oh, how we got onboard with Big Mama’s lovely rendition of this fish! Seemingly simple to execute, this mackerel was a juice-master. Utterly morish, we were well-impressed!

During our lunch, for those who enjoyed Korean food, Big Mama turned out to be a dependable source of comforting Korean grub. Craving comfortably satisfied. On the other hand, for those who did not normally enjoy Korean grub, they left totally disappointed. It seems the flavours of every dish just tasted the same. My friends, if you similarly enjoy the awesomeness of Korean food, I am sure you will feel positively strongly about Big Mama.

OSIM Sundown Marathon 2015: A Quick Recap

On Sunday morning at 1am, I abandoned my comfortable bed and raced in my first ever Sundown Marathon!!!


I prepared for this race by sleeping a lot during the day on Saturday. Having slept enough, I was so ready for this race. At the same time, thought due to the lack of unbearable heat, this race was going to be less tough. I was quite wrong. Running at 1am through to 6am was no joke. The entire time I was fighting sleepiness. As I discovered, my body clock automatically shuts down at midnight.

From the race route, one can see a large part of the run was in East Coast Park. The Park was dark and quiet. This meant me constantly finding ways to distract myself. If not, I would naturally close my eyes and drift off. However the wonderful sea breeze and sounds of waves were so calming and more then made up for it. 

As this was my second marathon, there was much to compare with my first, Standard Chartered in December 2014. I have no pictures from this race as I did not bring my phone. It’s new and still precious. But here is a quick recap from Sunday’s race.

Pros:

  • One steep hill at the start of the race (Republic Avenue, 3km mark) – anyone who has ran Stand Chart knows at the 37km mark, the Benjamin Sheares bridge is the most tedious! That climb alone will make or break your target time. So this hill at the start was godsent! After climbing it, the route was mostly flat or downhill. Woohoo!
  • Ample Gu Gels and Bananas!!!! <– This was my first time refueling mid-run with Bananas and I am so happy to note, provides as much as energy as gels.
  • Iced-cold 100 Plus at every Hydration station <– Thank you Organizers, you guys are the best!!!
  • Ample Hydration Stations – It felt as if, they were everywhere!
  • Distance markers at every km <– So grateful! No checking of watches necessary.
  • Mostly flat/ downhill <– No hill surprises. My legs were very grateful!
  • Ample cheer-ers. There were so many “cheerleaders” along the route <– Thank you, Organizers!
  • Wide routes – no banging or shoulder rubbing with other runners; ACE!

Cons:

  • Dark! The Hydration Stations were poorly lit (can’t blame the organizers.. but at times, I did not realised the stations were there until it was directly in front of me.)
  • 1am start <– Thought of my lovely bed the entire race.
  • More than one loop <– Loops will test your willpower… you run one side knowing the U-turn is somewhere in front and in the meantime on the other side of the barrier, you know fellow runners have “turned”. You will feel both desperation to turn and longing to be on the other side – very dark feelings… There were two loops during the race. One in East Coast Park and other at Gardens by the Bay East. Both were long and painful.

Toilet tip: if there is anything I learnt from Stand Chart and Sundown is: make sure to use the ample toilets in East Coast Park before you leave. The route after ECP is long and toilets can be hard to come by. I assure you, once you use the toilets in the Park, you will leave feeling refreshed. The run afterwards will be less arduous. 

The best part of Sundown was definitely the organization of the race. The race organisers did a splendid job! Hands down, beat Stand Chart! Having said that, I don’t foresee running this race again. The midnight run was just too difficult. I don’t love running enough to leave my bed.

[UPDATE]

Final timing, a sub-5. Yeesss!

Catering by Shelter In the Woods: W.O.W.

Have you guys heard of Shelter In the Woods? Well, I did not until last night. At a networking session held by Lexus at its car showroom on Leng Kee Road, the restaurant catered all the grub. When the emcee first announced dinner was to be provided by Shelter In the Woods, my immediate thought was a hipster cafe. And so it couldn’t be all that good. Yours truly, the country bumpkin, could not be more wrong! From the Canapes provided throughout the evening to the little plates of main course, every dish was excellent. I also learnt during the evening that a dinner at the restaurant was not cheap: around $80 per pax. That’s fine-dining! No wonder the food that evening was so luxe. Check it out. 

We began with Canapes. My girlfriends were killing it! The deep-fried prawn dumpling with a whole prawn was the favourite of the lot.

For dinner: Roast Pork. Each plate comprised of two types of pork: shredded pork shoulder with cubes of crispy pork belly accompanied by smooth mashed potatoes and wedges of grilled pineapples. Impressive! I spent a good part of the evening promoting this dish.

Roast Beef. Two tender pink slices of roast beef with a mini Yorkshire Pudding (so cute!) and grilled vegetables. This was very popular.

On another table, Sesame & soy glazed Chicken Drumlets. Superbly crisp and juicy, I had to pull myself away from this spread before I grabbed a third.    

The little plates were too cute! Wonderfully attractive presentation.

For dessert: the plumpest, most robust Rose Macarons I have ever seen in my life. If you are into Rose flavour, you would have adored these.

Mini Choux Puffs.

What a surprising wonderful evening. Test-drove two cars then ate a scrumptious dinner with tons of bubbly. Thanks Lexus!

Plain Vanilla Bakery Cupcakes: Overhyped

In Singapore, when one thinks of a good bakery to obtain cupcakes, one’s thoughts will be Plain Vanilla Bakery. Am I wrong? PVB offers some seriously chic packaging with the ultra-neat and uniform cupcake frostings across the myraid of interesting flavours. The linkage between good cupcakes and PVB will inevitably happen. Except just this past weekend, my experience with PVB rendered me unable to understand this linkage.

Some of you may know recently, my cupcake obssession was reignited. After consuming copious amount of another bakery, PVB seemed like the next natural step to measure up the bakery against one of Singapore’s finest. I made cupcakes from PVB happen by suggesting my family’s Sunday lunch take place in the rarely-ventured area of Tiong Bahru. We went to Big Mama Korean Restaurant. Big Mama was amazing (a post on it coming up!) and after lunch, I braved the hot weather and walked over to PVB. Excited, I purchased 24 cupcakes in one shot. While paying for the first two dozen, I decided to purchase another dozen. So in 15 minutes, I purchased 36 cupcakes. I must have made some kind of impact to their sales for that hour. Although there were hiccups with the purchase, for the sake of one of Singapore’s best ahead of me, I beared up with the service.    

But after six cupcakes (Red Velvet, S’more, Pineapple Meringue, Carrot, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla), I was full of regret with having plonked down good money on them. I will no longer understand the linkage between good cupcakes and PVB. In fact, I am still peeved about the expenditure.

My main gripe was the quality of the bakes. After trying six including filled ones, I found all the cupcake bases to be dry and crumbly. After every bite, I reached for water. Hey, aren’t cupcakes supposed to be mini cakes, not scones? Even if I wanted a scone, I would have gone to Cedele for one. At the same time, the flavours were forgettable. I don’t remember any exceptional ones to be honest.

Another problem was the gritty frostings from underwhipping. However that flaw did not extend to the meringue-topped ones like the June specials: S’mores and Pineapple Meringue. Quite frankly, if you have gritty meringues, you shouldn’t even open a bakery. Another annoying quality of the buttercream: the crustiness that forms on the surface areas exposed to air. Forget about fluffiness, I was lucky to chew a smooth bit. 

Side note about the service: Usually I would ignore the service standards in Singapore as I have very very low expectations. However yesterday afternoon I was surprised to learn how much can happen in a span of 10-15 minutes. After purchasing the first 24 cupcakes for $88 and payment made with a credit card, I decided to get a dozen more. To save time (string-tying takes a while), I paid for the dozen before choosing the flavours. Then as I was happily picking the flavours, the girl behind the counter suddenly said the “special” cupcakes were $0.50 more. So she would also have to charge me extra including the first batch ordered. My patience was thinning at that point. But that was still fine as it was just $5.50 and I had a $10 note. As I handed over the note to her, she says THEY DON’T HAVE SMALL CHANGE in their till. And so was my $4.50 change in coins alright? I nearly fainted. My choices then and there were: 1) accept $4.50 in coins; 2) charge $5.50 to my credit card; or 3) give $10 and not expect change. Quite frankly, I was just desperate to leave so I chose option 1. After payment, I learnt THEY DONT DO PLASTIC BAGS. By then my 36 cupcakes were packed in boxes of 2x12s, 2s, 4s, and 6s, as I was bringing them to different parties and locations. The most “convenient” option for me was for the two 12s to be tied up together, and the others in one stack. It was ridiculous and punishing for those purchasing in big batches! Ask my family how terrible I looked with my hands holding two stacks of boxes, and no free hand to hold an umbrella. They will also tell you about my make-up-soaked-perspiration dribbling down my neck. I will never forget the shocked look on their faces when I arrived back in Big Mama where they were waiting. 

I am so unimpressed with PVB. But even more disappointingly, it seems these days a good cupcakes in Singapore are few and far between.

[Jakarta] A Jaw-Dropping Wedding Banquet @ The Ritz-Carlton, Pacific Place

On Sunday evening, I attended my friend’s wedding; the main purpose for my trip. My friend, the bride, and I went back to our A-level college days (’04-’05). But it is funny for we became closer after graduation despite us attending different universities (she: Kings, me: Durham). When she invited me to her wedding months ago, I jumped at the chance to attend a wedding in Jakarta. Plus with some of our mutual friends from college days attending, itt was an offer even harder to resist!

My friend kindly put us out-of-towners up at the location of the wedding ceremony: The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place. To experience a wedding banquet from another culture is always exciting but in this instance, my friend’s wedding was a jaw-dropping and spectacular event. From the over-the-top, ostentatious decorations to the wedding food, the whole event was a memorable one. I was in awe the entire evening as there were so many surprises.

The spectacular event made me feel like a country bumpkin; albeit a euphoric one. From the very minute I stepped into the reception area, I felt underdressed. Wearing a calf-length dress, this seemed casual compared to the beautiful and stick-thin young Jakarta ladies with their perfectly coiffed hairdos and full-length gowns. Don’t get me started on the diamonds. My saving grace was the gel manicure and eye make-up professionally done at the last minute prior to the wedding dinner. If not, I would have felt like I rolled straight out of a village.

Throughout the course of the evening, guests were entertained by a wedding “band”. As will be elaborated below, this “band” sent me into heaven with their performances. You’ll see why I keep adding inverted commas to the word, band. But shockingly, when I could not stop harping on about the “band” to the table mostly filled with locals, one of them waved her hand, and dismissed it as “another typical Jakarta wedding.” Yeah, you bet the jaws of my Malaysian friends and I dropped wide open upon that comment. Besides the opulent decor and wedding “band”, the wedding food was splendid. A sit-down 7-course fusion dinner. I learnt this was uncommon in Jakarta weddings. Indonesian weddings are usually buffet-style as usually above 1,000 guests will be invited. The wedding I attended was a “cosy” 600-guest affair. After dinner I felt very guilty about my Hong Bao to the couple. Let me show you why.

We began with the reception area… There were flowers everywhere and a tree with densed gold leaves decked out with hanging charms to provide even more bling.

In the middle of the reception were two huge bunnies.

Each as cute and as tall as me, this tickled me to no end.

Made a new friend at the wedding 🐰 #ohyeahbringingthishome

A photo posted by A Rabbit Afoot (@yyangchen) on

There were a lot of flowers at the reception area. However they were fake. This fact proved to be significant later on..

After spending a long time in the reception area, taking pictures with bunnies and oogling at the opulent decor, we managed to tear ourselves away and entered the banquet hall. My jaw dropped…

In the middle of the ballroom was this majestic gold hanging centrepiece that was so bling, it will make a Maharajah shy. And with 60 tables, the ballroom was still unbelievably spacious. Much to the amusement of the Indonesians sitting nearby, my out-of-town friends and I spent a great deal of time posing in front of the blinged out centrepiece before finally making our way to the designated table.

After a short while a charismatic and highly enthusiatic Emcee announced in Bahasan that the wedding was to begin. In Singapore weddings, only the couple will march-in at the start of the wedding. On the other hand, at this wedding, it was a longer and more dramatic affair. Introductions were first made for the couple’s parents and siblings, then bridesmaids and groomsmen marched-in before we finally saw the newly married couple.

It may have been an unusually long march-in. But midway through, I realised the music accompanying them were sang live! Here is a short video posted on my IG earlier.

The wedding march-in to a soundtrack sang live!!! #stillinawe

A video posted by A Rabbit Afoot (@yyangchen) on

The wedding “band” that I keep harping on about in this post consisted of six wedding singers(!) and a harpist backed by a string ensemble. My friend hired Andrew Lee Music. Us out-of-towners were so impressed! Not only were the singers each stunning, they had some serious vocal cords to match their looks. See for yourself…

Throughout the evening, they sang in English and harmonised beautifully. For us visitors too used to music playing from a CD or iPod, this live version was almost too much for us to handle. But we had such a good time singing along and grooving to the hit music. Judgmental eyes from the Indonesians around us were definitely felt but who cares!

After the excessive beginning, the wedding dinner commenced. I like the Indonesian way. The 7-courses were presented in quick succession with no pauses for speeches or dreaded lovey-dovey videos. Just go-go-go! Immediately upon finishing, the plates would be swiftly removed and a new course almost instantly placed before us. But that wasn’t the best part. Check out the menu.

IMG_0222

I expected, and would have been contented, with traditional Indonesian food. But no, my friends chose an elegant 7-course fusion dinner with a lot of unusual components in each dish. I could not be more excited upon seeing the menu. Despite my stuffed tummy from the mega lunch before and an extremely buttery Medan chocolate cake for snack, I was eagerly looking forward to dinner. The wedding food was most certainly one of the best I ever had. Both the Western and Asian components were equally executed well.

Bread baskets with butter was provided right from the start. Although I did not have any, the basket was quickly emptied before the first course arrived which was an impressively-plated cold appetizer: Lobster Fruit Salad, Peking Duck, Salmon Confit on a Seaweed Salad and King Crab. Out of all the components, the Peking Duck was the least impressive due to its dry meat. But the other seafood components were fresh and we happily lapped it up.

The second course, Buddha Jump Over the Wall, was not exceptional and tasted exactly like the soup at the wedding dinner in MBS the evening before. However the third course was a sublime and unforgettable, Baked Chilean Seabass, Beurre Blanc Sauce, Potato Gratin, Buttered Asparagus and Osyter Mushroom. This plate I would expect from a fine-dining restaurant so to see it at a wedding banquet, I was floored. It was also mighty delicious. The thick and rich cream sauce went beautifully with the sturdy streusal-crusted fish and sinful potato gratin. None of the guests left behind anything. Even my skinny, picky-eater friends happily cleaned plates with much praises in between bites.

Finally the beef dish arrived. I was most looking forward to this dish due to the lemon curd component. Certainly an unusual component found on a savoury dish. Barbecued Beef Rib, Lemon Curd, Pumpkin Puree and Pomegranate Red Wine Sauce. Supremely tender beef rib, I forgave the tasteless sauce and mismatched Lemon Curd. My friend had a good laugh with the leaf-less bak choy.

For carbohydrates, a bowl of Shaoxing Seafood I Fu Noodles. Expecting a snoozefest; boring, bland brown e-fu noodles normally experienced in Singapore banquets, this was nowhere close to undesirable. For we had a sublime bowl of fried noodles rich with smokiness! Why was the portion so tiny though?! The flat noodles resembled the more-appreciated yellow hokkien noodles. My Hong Kong friend was most impressed with this. For me, I sent this picture straight to my Mum in Singapore and together we prayed I will marry a nice Indonesian boy too. I need this dish at my wedding.

I wasn’t thinking too much about the dessert until my friend pointed out the presence of “chocolate cronuts”. That perked me up measurably so I started eying for my plate to arrive. Thank goodness it was swift after the noodles. As stuffed as I was by then, it did not stop me from having two plates. Warm Lindt Orange Chocolate Molten Cake, Chocolate Cronut, Caramelized White Chocolate, Orange Marmalade Sauce, Raspberry Sauce and Orange Jelly. Each plate was jam-packed with components. They may not have matched but each was pretty good. Except for the cronut that was hard-rock. But the caramelized white chocolate was a thick burnt-brown dollop paired with some biscuit crumbs. Wonderful. No molten cake at the table was overcooked and with the thick orange jelly cutting the richness of the chocolate. Smiles all around the table.

You would have thought we were beyond stuffed at this point. We definitely were but the Petit Fours contained so many delicious-looking components, we could not resist helping ourselves to it. The mini orange madeline sandwiched with chocolate ganache was the best. The large cube of raspberry pistachio nougant fared well too. And the Pocky-looking pistachio chocolated coated biscuit stick was a hit too.

It was a delicious wedding banquet that exceeded all my expectations. Three days after the banquet, I am still in awe. It may have been a short, tiring trip but this dinner was worth every hassle and lack of sleep. My hotel room was next to a Mosque… the Holy Prayers sounded out before the sun rose in the morning.

Before I end off, another detail of the wedding shocked me. From the preceding pictures, one could see large bouquets of flower arrangements throughout the banquet hall. Containing palm-sized roses and peonies, I assumed they were fake; like those in the reception area. Until the very end of dinner when I saw a lot of guests helping themselves to the flowers, I touched and found they were all real! And according to the bride’s close friend, all imported from Europe!

Ah Jakarta, I may not have spent much time with you but I saw more in the two days than the past few months alone. The best part of Jakarta is the people. EVERYONE, no matter how many diamonds around their neck, were impossibly smiley, genuine and warm. It also helps that the best Kueh Lapis and Ambon Cake I ever tasted was from there too! Watch out for the next post. ;)

[Jakarta] Sate Khas Senayan: A Wonderful Introduction To The Colourful Indonesian Cuisine

Hello everyone!!! On Sunday, I made a short trip to Jakarta to attend an old friend’s wedding. Although I was there for only less than two days, I experienced so much! For my first meal in the sprawling city, my local family friends brought me to Sate Khas Senayan. A popular chain specializing in Indonesian food from many regions, it was a cosy joint filled with wood accents. We sat on teak benches. When I saw the list of branches, initially I was disheartened. But it turned out to be unnecessary for the food was wonderful and at lunchtime filled with locals – a good sign of authenticity. From my one meal at Sate Khas Senayan I was introduced to Indonesian food from at least three regions. The differences and variety were so exciting! After my meal, my curiosity for Indonesia heightened. Sate Khas Senayan also proved to be extremely convenient for a tourist short of time.

One the biggest surprise during lunch was the variety of peanut sauces. Although the menu stated “peanut sauce” for almost every Gado Gado-type dishes, the sauces could not be more different. Also, thank goodness I am an adventurous eater for the Indos really know how to eat a cow as efficiently as possible. Let me show you…

The restaurant menu was filled with pages and pages of food with pictures resembling food porn to match.   For tourists, the pictures were a huge help!

We began lunch with some chips: Kerupuk Kulit (thinly sliced beef skin crackers). Vaguely resembling a Louis Vuitton leather bag, this was more novelty than rewarding in taste. I much preferred pork crackling as this beef version was not as fragrant. But hey, at least now I can say I HAD BEEF SKIN CRACKERS!

Then for “drinks”, Es Cendol Durian. I was surprised when this was one of the first dishes to arrive. At other tables, the Indonesians were happily eating their iced desserts before their savouries. My family friend was drinking this throughout the meal so I followed suit. This was DELICIOUS! The green chendol noodles were significantly plumper than those in Singapore with great bouncy texture! The Gula Melaka or Gula Jawa (as it is known in Jakarta) was a deeper and less cloyingly-sweet version than those in Singapore. Plus the durian pulp hit the spot.

Next arrived two types of vegetables: (L-R) Gado Gado (Vegetables with peanut sauce and crackers) and Pecel Madiun (Vegetables with peanut sauce).

Both mega salads were filled with blanched vegetables (spinach, cabbage and bean sprouts) and topped with peanut sauces.  In the picture below, top is Pecal Madiun, bottom is Gado Gado.

Gado Gado (Vegetables with peanut sauce and crackers) is from the region of Jakarta and West Java (thanks Wikipedia!) unlike Pecel Madiun, this salad version contained hard-boiled eggs and lontong (rice wrapped in a banana leaf).This is more commonly found in Singapore.

On the other hand, Pecel Madiun (Vegetables with peanut sauce) is from the region of Java. The biggest differentiating factor is the peanut sauce or peanut sambal. Spicier than its Gado Gado cousin, the sauce contains no coconut milk hence the more fiery colour. This peanut sauce also contains Kencur or galangal ginger. I found this sauce to be more appetizing than Gado Gado for I thoroughly enjoyed the bolder flavours.

Also from the same region as Pecal Madium is the sate version called Sate Ayam Campur Bumbu Blora (chicken and chicken skin satay in peanut fondue). Of all the food, the Indonesian version of satay was high on my bucket list. And this dish definitely exceeded my expectations. The peanut fondue was a silky smooth and rich peanut sauce with some kechap manis (sweet soy sauce) added for good measure. A dollop of sambal chilli on the side for the fiery aspect. Each chicken skewer consisted of a chunk of sliced marinated chicken meat. As opposed to the several small slices on a skewer that we have in Singapore, this single piece of chicken thigh per skewer was juicy and grilled to perfect smokiness. I expected to be squeamish about the chicken skin but it was so crispy yet surprisingly silky. My favourite dish of the afternoon!

You know what else was spectacular? This Nasi Goreng (traditional indonesian fried rice served with minched chicken satay). Get your luggage ready to hit Jakarta just for this dish. My crappy photographer skills did no justice to this dish. The mildly sweet but heavy smokiness went straight to my heart on first bite. The plump crunchy rice grains were loose and felt fluffy. A triumph, I fell madly in love with Indonesian cuisine after this.

Another mega salad we shared was from Surabaya, Rujak Cingur (assorted steamed vegetables but this time with green beans, tofu and rice cake served with cingur and peanut sauce.) My photo is crap but I took a picture of the menu where the cingur can be seen more clearly. Guess what part of the buffalo cingur is?

The lips! What the hell, right?! Chewy but more gelatinous than the tongue, this dish was downright bizarre! However, I could not appreciate this “peanut sauce” version. The blacker-than-usual peanut sauce differentiates from the other two due to the addition of petis (black fermented shrimp paste). It may be unique but I found the sauce most jarring. But the noodle-shaped kerupuk (Indonesian shrimp crackers) was quite a sight. And surprisingly the tempeh was not deep-fried bone-dry but still retained its tender nature.

I asked for this dish, Perkedel Jagung (Crispy sweet corn fritters), as almost every table had a plate. Each pancake-like fritter was packed with crunchy corn. A deep-fried goodness but the sambal chilli accompanying it made this dish memorable. So spicy, thick and fragrant, I “spread” a generous teaspoon on each fritter before eating it. That was some seriously addictive chilli. 

Another unique dish we shared: Tahu Pong Komplit (Prawn fritters, fried beancurd and fried hard-boiled egg with prawn paste). Accompanied with a sweet and savoury soy sauce with green sambal. This dish may have been totally deep-fried but it was surprisingly light thanks to the airiness.

When cut into half, an extremely airy fried tofu.

Then there were two soup ordered that afternoon: (L-R) Sayur Asem (Crunchy vegetables boiled in tamarind broth) and Soto Betawi Isi Daging (Betawi beef curry). Soto Betawi Isi Daging (Betawi beef curry) originates from Jakarta and consists of a thin coconut milk beef broth filled with thinly cut soft beef brisket, fried potatoes and tomato. The “curry” was a little thin for my liking or maybe because I was on the verge of bursting from all the preceding food.

Sundanese-cuisine, Sayur Asem (Crunchy vegetables boiled in tamarind broth) was a vegetable-packed soup with a crazy amount of peanuts. Seriously stuffed at this point… But then dessert was ordered.. Good god.

But I learnt dessert was the special and extremely unique Kolak! I’m mighty pleased to have tried this dish as my friend explained it is only available for a month each year. That’s because this is the much-preferred dish to Iftar (break a fast) during the holy month of Ramadan. A sweet gula jawa-based soup. I was told if I came any other month, I would have been unable to try this dish. Lucky me for it was gorgeous! Consisting of the common ingredients such as Banana Rajah (unripe bananas – sturdy and delicious!), sweet potato, plantains and atapchee. The Sate Khas Senayan version included large cubes of a white tofu-like pudding. The cubes of pudding were coconut-flavoured and sturdier than tofu. It was so appetizing, I threw all fears of calories out the window and effortlessly lapped up this bowl.

I ate like no tomorrow at Sate Khas Senayan. Hearty food, wonderful service and damn cold air-conditioning; I can not think of a better welcome to the city of Jakarta. If you are pressed for time, lack local guide, not into wandering around for food (sorry we can’t be friends) or want clean food, you have to hit up Sate Khas Senayan. Free wifi and clean toilets provided, you will leave the restaurant happily stuffed.


London Fat Duck @ Scotts Square: Patience Duly Rewarded

One and a half hours. That’s how long it took for my family to try out our beloved London-style roast duck at London Fat Duck. In the end, we concluded the wait was worth it! You may already know LFD is one of two new eateries in Singapore offering extremely fatty roast ducks that can only be found in London or Four Seasons in Siam Paragon, Bangkok. With these two eateries, there is now a possibility that our craving for London ducks like those found in Gold Mine, Bayswater, London will be satisfied. However I heard the other eatery at Capitol Building is severely disappointing. Not wanting to risk wasting calories, my family decided to check out the better-reviewed LFD in Scotts Square Shopping Mall.

We braved the dreaded weekend Orchard crowd, queued for what-seemed-like-eternity, but we had no regrets. I’m not going to lie. The wait was a b*tch! And the only thing that stopped short of classifying the queue as a royal pain in the ass: Maison Kayser. Just opposite LFD, we shared some pastries while waiting. This held us over the agonizing wait. But the entire time we were watching LFD’s queue number monitor like a hawk in case we missed ours and all hormones broke lose. The number on the monitor was at “1” when our queue number was “24”, we had a long wayyyy to go.

But you know what, we all agreed in unison that the wait was worth it! I don’t remember when we last all agreed a place was good so LFD was memorable. We LOVED every dish right down to the extremely oily chilli, but saved by its fragrance and spiciness, and the white rice. Every flavour and seasoning was spot-on! By the end of the meal, we were already planning our return trip. But we decided my Dad, who works nearby, shall come and taopao for us to eat in the comfort of our own home. No one was up for queuing.

On to the most important point of this post, here’s what we had on the Sunday afternoon:

Shrimp Wanton Soup. On first taste, we exclaimed “taste like Hong Kong!” I can’t describe it but the fragrant broth transported us back to Hong Kong. It felt good. We were sold on first slurp. And we were equally enamored with the large thin-skinned wantons were filled with a delicious blend of crunchy shrimps and minced pork.

Seasonal Vegetables in Oyster Sauce was exactly as described but this being the only veg on the menu, was saved by the kick-assed chilli..

Signature Black Pepper London Duck Bun. This is the famed buns akin to the Dim Sum favourite Bo Luo Buns and well worth the hype! I could not get enough of the fragrant buttery bun topped with a crisp peppery crust. We liked this dish very very much. I assumed the pepper top was going to be strong and off-putting but no, it balanced beautifully with the duck filling. Do order a plate, or two, while you are there.

  Barbecue Pork with Honey Sauce (Char Siew) we liked this very very much. So much so that we ordered a second plate even before we finished the first. And you know what? The second plate was even better! Smoky and sweet caramelized exterior with the tender meat. Thanks to this porky goodness, we pledged loyalty to LFD and this was even before tasting the famed duck.

My brother-in-law ordered this Pig Liver Noodles. He was very happy with it, said the noodles tasted like those in Hong Kong.  Signature London Roast Duck (Half). The pièce de résistance arrived after a long wait and we succumbed to it. It was good but to be honest, not as magical as the heydays of Four Seasons, Bayswater, London. Having said that our craving for London-style duck was satisfied thanks to the tenderness of the meat, luscious roasted skin with a good thick layer of fat underneath, and the meat devoid of any gaminess. We were almost in heaven and will be back for more! The sauce, on the other hand, could be improved. Thicker perhaps? It’s o.k. because we had the chilli to dip it into. The chilli really rocked our socks.

Hong Kong Crackling Pork Belly. Crispy skin, tender not-so-fatty pork, we had a second plate of this.

If you plan to try out LFD, do go with a game-plan and bring along tons of patience. The service can be a bit slow and inefficient as there are many servers but only two ladies can take orders. One of the ladies forgot our repeat order (I so knew this was going to happen given the crowd) so I reminded her after 10 minutes… If you are going with a group of more than 3 with large appetites, order multiple servings of the Char Siew and Pork Belly at the beginning. They take a while to be served. Oh by the way, the Char Siew was sold out by 1:48pm this afternoon! It pays to be a kanchiong spider and check on your order. While waiting, I suggest coffee at Maison Kayser or Dome opposite while you wait. Bring along a magazine or heck, the whole of Kinokuniya. Just be prepared to wait. The restaurant allows take-aways and orders to be made over the phone. I’m not sure if it is accurate but my family is going to try it out at the end of the week and I shall duly report back.

All in all, LFD is a great addition to the Singapore Dining Scene! I foresee many return trips and take-aways. The restaurant should expand. I feel for the empty boring mall. It really felt like a ghost town. Now I only hope the high-level execution can be sustained for as long as possible. Hope you have an equally good time at LFD.