Ssäm @ Marina Bay Link Mall: Korean-Mexican Kitchen Does Fusion SO WELL! [Updated]

Picture pulled from Ssam's Facebook
Picture pulled from Ssam’s Facebook

This lunchtime, I had an epic Pork Belly & Shoulder Salad bowl from Ssäm! Specializing in Korean-Mexican fusion food, this tiny hole-in-the-wall is sandwiched in between Four Seasons Gourmet Market and Viet Baguette Cafe of the Mall. Ever cognizant of the market like a true savy investor, thankfully Ssäm does salad-based bowls too. The Korean influence is present in the protein options (such as Bulgogi beef and Kimchi add-ons) but Mexican at heart (Burritos and rice bowls).

I am so happy because my lunch was filled wtih the most delicious flavours and exciting textures. I was literally jumping for joy after! More importantly, so satisfied and satiated that I did not even need dessert after. Now I can’t stop thinking of my lunch and already planning my next trip! O_o

Ssäm means wrapped in Korean, though it traditionally refers to wrapped in lettuce leaves. What we we have is pieces of delicious meat delicately nestled between the bosoms of a warm tortilla and a spicy blend of pickled veg. This combination of Korean Galbi with Mexican salsa and spices is a match made in food heaven.

Picture pulled from Ssam's Facebook

Picture pulled from Ssam’s Facebook

The ordering is pretty easy, choose a base: a burrito, rice bowl (Cilantro Rice or Kimchi Rice), or a salad. Then choose between 4 staples of the menu which are the proteins: they have Korean-marinated Beef, Crackling Pork Belly & Shoulders, Grilled Chicken, and Soy-marinated Tofu. Finally finish things off with your choice and any amount of Basil Leaves, Cabbage Kimchi, Spring Onion Kimchi, Candied Lotus Roots (highly recommended), Seaweed (highly recommended), Scallions, tomato salsa (highly recommended), Kimchi salsa (highly recommended), and a dressing. Scrambled eggs, boiled eggs or Guacamole are available at an extra charge. The concept is not novel. It is exactly the same method as Chipotle in the USA. But who cares, it works!

Picture pulled from Ssam's Facebook

Picture pulled from Ssam’s Facebook

Affordably priced at $8 for all protein save for the beef ($9) without the extras, my hearty lunch was a huge portion. I was stuffed beyond words. My lunch was a Salad Bowl with Crackling Pork Belly & Shoulder, with Kimchi, Seaweed, Tomato Salsa, Kimchi salsa, Lotus root, and Sesame Seeds. My lunch companion’s bowl (top in the first picture) consisted of a rice bowl, beef, fried scallions, onions, and seaweed with guacamole added in. Needless to say, she couldn’t finish either.

I thoroughly enjoyed my choice of protein: pork belly & shoulder as the meat was cooked to tender-perfection, packed with flavour and… BITS of PORK CRACKLING sprinkled throughout. Every bite had a crunchy bit – sublime. I could not stop. Plus my side components were absolutely delightful with punchy flavours and crunchy textures. If you work in the area, GO TRY! I can’t wait to try the other proteins.

A word of advice: GO EARLY. I went at 1.15pm and got the last portion of salad! Plus a lot of other components were out too. Further this place is tiny. Be prepared to not get a seat inside but there are long benches just outside. Those are comfortable and great for people watching!

[Updated on 4th May 2015]

So I returned for my Ssam fix this afternoon. For the sake of research, I got the beef. Unbelievably, it was more fabulous than the pork belly & shoulder! I could not believe what was in my mouth. The tender-thin slices of beef were so flavourful. However unlike the pork, the Korean-style sauce was on the sweet side. But it was a harmonious sweet-savoury contrast. Two visits and I have not craved for a dressing yet.

I am so in love this with little spot. Can you tell?

Lean Bento: Introducing “Chicken” to Raffles Place

Raffles Place has a new health eatery and I raced to fill my stomach with it! Founded by two extremely fit people, Lean Bento is located on the second floor of the Arcade (opposite the money charger, Loo & Ng) and boasts guilt-free bento meals at amazingly low calories. No more than 460 kCal per bento set. Sounds like a winner of all the healthy eateries RP has got going for her. But is victory clear?

The eatery is upfront about all the kcal, protein and carbohydrates contained within a set. It is also extremely proud of its hashtags (#HIGHPROTEIN #LOWCARB #LOWFAT #LOWCALORIE #EATCLEAN #EATLEAN #GLUTENFREE #PEANUTFREE). Quite frankly the first two hashtags alone caused me to sail past the bakeries in the Arcade with ease, and head straight to the cafe to nourish my body. Who needs low nutritional carbohydrates when a 500 kCal lunch awaits me? This afternoon I got myself a High Protein Honey Mustard Chicken Bento for $11.90. However my 447 kCal lunch eft me baffled. Because I swear I did not eat any chicken.

First up, the tiny but spacious cafe boasted a sleek interior. The clean feel of this place and friendly service staff made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Those display cabinets were actually heated. Yup, those high-protein muffins on the top shelf were served warm!  

But I am going to come right out and say I have very mixed feelings about this place. Within my seemingly simple bento set, I had so many likes and dislikes. The branding, labels and nutritional information are amazing, for sure! Who does not like transparency especially when nutrition is involved?!

My lunch boasts more protein than carbohydrates –> fabulous! Less than 600kCal for lunch –> YES! I await those abs or the day I look remotely similar to the fit owners.

Inside my bento set, there were many different components –> super fun! For an ADHD-eater like me, this was great. I was kept entertained until the very end.

But that’s when my mixed feelings came in. Some of the side dishes were executed to perfection. Check out the runny yolk of the semi-boiled egg. Gorgeous, isn’t it?! The green Japanese seaweed pickle, delicious! Those yellow cubes surrounding my main are eggs! A la Japanese Tamago-style. Them and the cubed carrots were great!

Now moving on to the dislike bit. Naturally at just 447 kCal, gravy or any other delicious seasoning will be lacking. The set felt very clean. Neat brocolli and cauliflower will take some getting used to. But the gloopy sticky brown rice and mushrooms, what’s up with that? The rice did not sit well on my tongue. But the biggest problem was the “chicken”, which by the way are the three coin patties studded with mustard seeds.

Here is a close up intersection of the “chicken”. No, it ain’t chicken breast or thigh as can be found elsewhere in Raffles Place. It was three patties that did not taste anything like chicken. They tasted… processed and… fake. In fact, I am still having difficulty digesting it. Two hours after lunch, I am still burping out the smell of the patty. Sorry, TMI.

I want to like Lean Bento. With the transparent nutritional information, eating healthily in Raffles Place never seemed easier. But when the menu says chicken, I expected a piece of chicken breast. I don’t understand why a “chicken” patty was used in place of a real chicken part that can be so easily found?!

Having said that, my friends thoroughly enjoyed their Salmon bento. I think I will stick to that the next time. And those forever-warm high-protein muffin… Desserts at unbelievably low calories, I will be back!


Guzman Y Gomez @ Asia Square Tower: Carby but YUMS

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FINALLY! After months of procrastination, I finally got my hands on Guzman Y Gomez in Asia Square’s Food Garden and was impressed! From the fragrant, saucy and tender slow roasted pork sandwiched in the impossibly-crisp Fried Taco shell to the Spicy Grilled Chicken Burrito that was jam-packed with large cubes of juicy chicken, black beans, rice and cheese with a spicy sauce harmonising all components, my best friend and I were blown away. Our two dishes were perfectly seasoned and aromatic! I craved for no additional salt. After my dismal meal in Mex-out, my expectations for Guzman was low but the obvious high quality food offered has now set my Mexican-food-standard very high. You know what else was pretty spectacular? The three complimentary sauces that was addictive and one could help yourselves to their heart’s content. Ranging from tongue-numbing spicy to a slightly-sweet BBQ-like sauce. My bestie and I found ourselves eating the thick sauces straight out of the small cardboard sauce bowl. Guzman Y Gomez has gotten me very excited about food again!

Poulet: Please Open in Raffles Place!

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Unbelievably I have never tried Poulet before. You would have thought that a F&B-eager beaver like me would have conquered this French Bistro chain before it even opened their second branch? Well, no. But 10 branches later, I finally tried the famed Poulet Roti at their Raffles City branch. Let me tell you, I have been missing out big time. Because this afternoon I had really good Roast Chicken!

Served with creamy fresh button mushroom Chardonnay sauce and fresh spinach, I could not believe how tender and fresh-tasting the chicken was. My metal knife sliced through every bit so easily – I swear a plastic knife would have easily accomplished this feat too. And when I sliced into the thigh area, a whole puddle of juices flowed out. So impressive! The beautiful blistered-brown skin also stood out for its sweet caramelisation and crispness.

Around the internet, many people criticize the cream sauce. I liked it. Sure, it was not thick and creamy but that is precisely why it scored brownie points with me. Diluted cream evidenced more water than cream –> less calories. I happily slurped up the liquidy-cream, all the while imagining it was low cal. Haha.

As luck would have it, I had two plates this afternoon! You see, I was halfway through my first half-chicken (above picture), and having gobbled up all the button mushrooms and spinach, when the parts near the bone started bleeding out. It was not a pretty sight. But the service staff was so bloody efficient and apologetic when she saw the blood flowing out. She quickly removed the plate and replaced me with another beautiful half.

I scored myself more spinach and mushrooms. What a wonderful first visit!

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Raffles Place-peeps might understand that our only roast chicken option is the chain that begins with Rosti. Quite frankly, the stale roast chicken from the chain is getting from bad to worse. (Don’t get me started on the Fish & Chips. It is a perfect example of how fried food can go wrong) Sure, price-wise, Poulet is more expensive given there are no sides like green peas, cauliflower gratin or salad. But for much tastier roast chicken, I will take Poulet any day. So Poulet owners, please please please open a branch in Raffles Place soon! Poulet is the perfect place to get our roast chicken fix.