September 25, 2010

The Pancake War: Food For Thought

Food for Thought's outlet at 8 Queen Street is the place to be if you're looking for a relief from the hustle and bustle at the nearby Bugis Village and Junction 8. Or if you're seeking an energizer after a study session at the nearby National Library. Or if you want to enjoy good food while helping a good cause: FFT does not have a service levy, but all tips go to the Give Clean Water Fund. While it does not charge for a free flow of iced water (and I don't see why any restaurant should), you are encouraged to donate $2 to Living Water International to grant an African with access to clean water.
Once you've navigated to Queen Street, locating FFT should not be a problem because it's is housed in a glass house which stands out from its surroundings. And once you've entered the place, it's difficult to resist the cozy vibe of the tastefully decorated café.
FFT's 8Q menu is more varied than that at its North Bridge Road Outlet, and what its breakfast menu, available from 9am to 5.30pm daily. I'd love FFT even more if the breakfast menu was available all day, but I'm not complaning! While the breakfast menu is not extensive, I love the idea of being able to customize your meal from a selection of fry-up items. The next time I drop by, I'm going to help myself to the brioche, thyme hashbrowns and their much-raved-about scrambled eggs with cream!

There're six other varieties of pancakes to choose from as well, such as Mixed Berries and Dark Chocolate with Stewed Cherries. If you're not a fan of sweet toppings, you can simply have them botak (i.e. plain) for an affordable $6 as well. I ordered Banana Walnut Pancakes ($10+), a huge favorite of mine. The generous portion of banana slices and walnuts are served on top of the stack by default, but you can choose to have them embedded inside like I did.
The inconvenience I faced walking to FFT in the rain (with an umbrella that persistently upturned every minute or so) was well-worth it after I had my first bite of these thick and fluffy pancakes. While just as superbly soft like Cedele's, FFT's pancakes were perfectly moist to boot. The generous portion of caramelized bananas and crunchy walnuts hidden inside made them all the more lovable.

Maple syrup is not served here, but who really cares when you have gula melaka syrup instead? Normally used in traditional desserts like chendol and Nonya kueh, the gula melaka syrup lent the pancakes a delightfully aromatic and sweet edge. An affordable but equally worthy alternative to maple syrup, surely! Oh, and did I forget to mention that the cold fresh cream which made such a lovely accompaniment to the warm pancakes is hand-whipped and not from a can?

I wish I had space for more, but the pancakes turned out to be just the right portion for an early dinner as I just had a cup of awesome ice cream at Tom's Palette. Guess the grilled vegetables and butterscotch and apple crumble have to wait for another time!

Food For Thought
8 Queen Street
Mon-Sat: 9am-10pm (Last orders from kitchen 8.50pm)
Sun: 9am-9pm (Last orders from kitchen 7.30pm)
Breakfast is served from 9am to 5.30pm daily

September 19, 2010

Snowskin Mooncakes from My Pastry

I was taken aback when the lady at My Pastry's booth at Compass Point's Mooncake Fair offered my mum and I entire chocolate truffles when I asked for a sample of their snowskin champagne mooncakes. The sales assistant then managed to find samples of the mooncakes and offered them to us. We were again, stunned at the generosity of the samples- we were given 1/4 of a mini mooncake! And we tried both the white chocolate and dark chocolate flavors)- a far cry from the tiny pieces proffered by other merchants (possibly leading to a scenario where the flavor of the mooncake can sometimes only be discerned by highly sensitive tastebuds). Thankfully, we liked their champagne mooncakes and decided to get two boxes of them as we were meeting up with a relative later.
While I have not tried them, judging by their popularity, the offerings from Raffles Hotel, Fairmont and Jewels Artisan Chocolates probably rank as the best champagne ganache mooncakes in Singapore. While My Pastry's Snowskin White Lotus Champagne Mooncakes have yet to enter their league, they were pretty decent and make an affordable alternative to those previously-mentioned- the least pricey of which is Fairmont's version at $38.40 for a box of eight mini mooncakes after 20% early bird discount (for HSBC cardmembers. In contrast, a box of eight mini snowskin mooncakes from My Pastry (U.P. $46) are going for a discount at $34.96, with a free mini Snowskin Soursop mooncake thrown in for every box purchased. This works out to $3.88 per piece, as compared to $4.80 per piece for the former.
I have to slice these mini mooncakes very meticulously to prevent an argument about who gets the piece with the largest champagne truffle quarter from breaking out. Just kidding! Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable part of this mooncake was  the creamy, boozy centre encased in a crunchy chocolate shell. While the white chocolate and champagne or dark chocolate and champagne combination were both pleasing, I preferred the latter as the intense flavor of the lush dark chocolate ganache paired really well with the champagne! The fact that there is no other retailer which offers dark chocolate champagne mooncakes at the moment, despite the snowskin and lotus paste faring just okay, was sufficient to warrant our purchase.

Though the champagne truffle is spiked with a decent dose of alcohol (less so for the lotus paste), the alcohol content in these chocolate champagne mooncakes is not so strong to the extent that they are unsuitable for consumption from children, unlike the Snowskin Rum and Raisin mooncakes- or so described by the sales assistant. I did not get to try the latter though as they were sold out.
The fact that the flavor of the complimentary mooncake was fixed turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The chunky soursop filling in My Pastry's Snowkin Soursop mooncakes were superbly refreshing, and I would definitely love to get more of them next year, along with the dark chocolate champagne mooncakes. Strangely enough, the snowskin of the Snowskin Soursop mooncake I had was softer than that of the chocolate champagne mooncakes.

My Pastry
Booth at Compass Point Basement till 22 September 2010
Main kitchen: Shimei East Kitchen, 3015 Bedok North Street #04-08

September 15, 2010

Mini Cheese Mooncakes from Dragon Phoenix Restaurant

The variety of mooncakes available in Singapore is not limited to the traditional baked Cantonese version, snowskin mooncakes and flaky-crusted Teochew-style mooncakes. Dragon Phoenix Restaurant's Mini Cheese Mooncakes ($38 for a box of 20) come with a tender shortcrust pastry crust is a great baked mooncake alternative for those who dislike the richness of the quintessential Cantonese version.
I loved how the tender and flaky pastry of these two-bite mooncakes simply crumbled away in my mouth! Smooth with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, the smooth, sweet lotus paste was nicely complemented by the savory cheese flavor incorporated into the buttery crust as well as the salted egg yolk embedded in the filling.  Just like Home's Favourite's durian mooncakes, these were something I knew I had to get when I first tasted them at the Takashimaya Mooncake Fair.

As with other mooncakes with flaky crusts, these Mini Cheese Mooncakes should be best consumed within a few days to guarantee freshness. But don't worry, they're still scrumptious even if you keep them for longer than that!

September 10, 2010

HK Goodies from Takashimaya Mooncake Fair

I've never been to Hong Kong, but I'll love to visit the city one day. I can only drool over the much-raved egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery for now, but in the meantime, Takashimaya Mooncake Fair has brought some of Hong Kong's delightful pastries into my reach.

Wing Wah Bakery's booth at the Takashimaya Mooncake Fair is one of the largest and the most generous with samples, with samples available for almost all of their products. The size of their mooncake samples were much larger than the tiny squares offered by other stalls too.

I found Wing Wah's mooncakes alright, but what captured my attention most was their walnut cookies. Crumbly, airy and fragrant, these were a steal at $2 for a pack of 6. Not all of Wing Wah's cookies were too my liking though. I found the texture of their almond cookies too hard, neither was their pineapple shortbread impressive.

Being a fan of the Lao Po Bing 老婆餠 (Wife's Biscuit), my mum was delighted to see that Hang Heung Bakery 恆香老餅家 had set up a stall at the mooncake fair again. The bakery has flown some of its pastry chefs over to Singapore, guaranteeing the freshness of the pastries I purchased.

Lao Po Bing 老婆餠

I'm not particularly fond of 老婆餠, but Hang Heung Bakery's famed version left a favorable impression on me. The superbly thin and tender crust flaked away to reveal soft and chewy candied winter melon innards with much ease. Though the texture of the soft filling was commendable, it was a tad bland for my liking and could have done with a bit more sugar.
Piglet biscuit 豬仔餅 from Hang Heung Bakery

Rich in taste, with a dense and slightly chewy texture, I declare Hang Heung Bakery's piglet biscuits a tasty and affordable alternative to mooncakes . The biscuit's interior was tender, but its crust could have been slightly less stiff.

Takashimaya Mid-Autumn Festival
26 August (Thu)-22 September (Wed)

September 8, 2010

Pulau Tioman: A pictorial of icy desserts, Ramly burgers and scenery

One of my lunches at the buffet at the resort's restaurant. I love their superbly smooth egg tofu!
As its name implies, the ice ball is simply a mound of shaved ice, shaped into a ball and drizzled with rainbow-colored syrup. I doubt that this humble predecessor to ice kacang can be found anywhere in Singapore today.
Served in a cup, the ice kacang here comprises a mountain of shaved ice drizzled with colorful syrup, topped with ground peanuts and Milo powder and accompanied by red beans, cubes of agar agar and sago. I didn't regret getting this despite having an ice ball during lunch 'cos the stall owner ran out of ice after preparing my order, and her stall was not open for the next two days. Lucky me!
Wading through waist-high water in mangroves to get to the less disturbed regions where more fiddler crabs reside.
Capturing specimens from streams using seines and hand nets.
Barbeque night. Smoke from the cooking area fans out into the restaurant before dinnertime, proof that the grilled items were cooked on charcoal.
The Ramly Burger shop. One of the things I'll definitely miss about Tioman.
Chicken special with cheese (RM 5.00): A lightly toasted, superbly soft and fluffy bun sandwiching a chicken patty wrapped in an omelette, complete with cucumber and tomato slices, lettuce shreds and a drizzle of mayonnaise and chilli sauce. Naturally, I chose to up the stakes with the addition of oozing melted cheese.

Humble, tasty, and affordable to boot, the Ramly burgers really put Mac's to shame. They were so popular with us students, the shop ran out of cheese on the second night.
Just look at the amount of effort they put into constructing each burger. The ingredients used may not be the best, but lovingly prepared food always tastes good.
Hold a cube of bread in your hand while snorkelling, and you'll be greeted by schools of fishes eager for a bite. I saw giant sea urchins under a huge rock!
Beef special. Without cheese :( Oishii nonetheless.
After that first memorable encounter during our Ramly burger and ice cream party with my friends, my trip to Tioman gained got a new objective. To enjoy as many Ramly burgers as possible within my short stay there.
During our last night there, my friend suggested to the stall owners that they open an hour earlier the next morning so that we could get another burger fix before we leave. And to our delight, they did! I crammed a Chicken Special into my stomach with much joy, never mind that I was upping my chances of getting seasick, never mind that I was consuming yet another egg after having about two and a half eggs in the form of an omelette and scramble during breakfast.
Goodbye Tioman. Back to Singapore, back to work. Sigh...

September 3, 2010

Snowskin D24 Durian Mooncakes from Home's Favorite

Visiting the Takashimaya Mooncake Fair is a must-do for me every year. Being fond lovers of the thorny fruit, purchasing durian snowskin mooncakes is an annual affair for my family. My search for the best snowskin durian mooncake involved sampling the goods from almost every booth at this year's fair, and of course, trying all the durian mooncakes available heheh! 

It was a tough fight, but the creamier and richer durian pulp filling of Home's Favorite Snowskin Black Durian Mooncake eventually edged out Peony Jade's Organic Pandan Snowskin Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake as my top snowskin durian mooncake pick available at the fair. The other top competitor worth mentioning would be Four Seasons Durians' Mao Shan Wang Durian mooncakes.

The main difference between Home's Favorite D24 Durian Mooncake ($50 for four pieces) and its D24 Black Durian Mooncake ($52 for four pieces) is the addition of charcoal powder to the snowskin of the latter. Though the difference between the two mooncakes is subtle, the charcoal powder in the snowskin seems to render the Black Durian Mooncake slightly less sweet and helps to bring out the bitterness of the durian flesh it encases.
Except for it being a little too soft and a bit sticky, I had no complaints about the snowskin. What makes Home's Favorite durian mooncakes a highly addictive affair is the fantastic pure durian pulp filling used. Both D24 and Mao Shan Wang durian mooncakes are available, but only the former was available for sampling at the fair. The D24 durian filling was so luxuriously luscious and punchy, I really wonder how good the Mao Shan Wang durian mooncakes ($68 for four pieces) are going to get!

However, durian mooncake lovers who are picky about the quality of the snowskin might want to go for Peony Jade's durian mooncake, whose melt-in-your-mouth snowskin is bound to please. While less pungent and bitter, its rich durian filling is excellent nonetheless.

This post will feature in Food Bloggers' Potluck #001 and this week's host is Food Prints.