Thursday, 5 January 2012

Boon Tong Kee

Chicken Rice is a national dish of Singapore that varies in tastiness according to the flavor if the rice and the chicken. This place was highly recommended by local friends and we were not disappointed. However unlike HK, they provide only two dipping sauces, the sweet thick soy sauce and the chili sauce. Noticeably absent was the ginger scallion oil, which I could easily drink on its own...

On the hawker trail: Singapore

After a year long hiatus from the blogosphere, the crook has re-entered the fold. My newest project: a Southeast Asian food trip as research for Vivian, a SE Asian noodle eatery that is slated to open in Manhattan in the coming year.

First stop for a snack was the food court at the Raffles City mall across the hotel. For 6.5 Sing dollars, I ordered a pear and apple pork ribs soup, which was slightly sweet, comforting and pretty satisfying. It came with yam rice that had chunks of pork char soy and dried shrimp, and a side of sautéed greens in sweet soy sauce and topped with fried garlic chips. A one tray meal for the proletariat. Serious steal lah.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Newton Hawker Centre

Off of Bukit Timah Road on Newton Circle

Highlights from last nights dinner included:

Singapore Laksa
- chicken, tofu, shrimp, cockles, bean sprouts and thick rice noodles
- the soup was rich and spicy, a thick saffron tinged coconut broth

Kangkung Belachan
- water spinach sautéed with shrimp paste

Chinese cabbage
- wok fried with sweet soy sauce and topped with crispy shallots

Oyster omelets
- accompanied with a spicy chilli sauce reminiscent of Tabasco sauce

"Carrot" cake with black sauce
- Turnips sautéed with egg in sweet soy sauce, the Singaporean version of Lo Bak Go

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Sunday with Blue Hill at Stone Barns

To celebrate Easter Sunday, I went up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was a whole day affair, and although we sat down at 4:00pm, we did not leave until 8:30pm, 4.5 hours later. Yet it did not feel drawn out, and I left sated but not sickly. Touring the farm and seeing all the produce and livestock that is grown and raised on this sprawling farm (part of the Rockefeller's humongous estate) and then sitting down to taste and savour it at the dining table was a life changing experience. The food is country dining at it's best: elegant but no nonsense, unadorned and unadulterated, simple but highly sophisticated.
The courtyard of the restaurant's entrance.
The farm's green house.
Purple and green basil.
Kale in candy colours.
I believe these ewe's were sheered because they are pregnant (note the swollen bellies and pronounced udders).
The chicken are free-range and unlike factory farm chicken coops, have ample room to move around and get some exercise, which means less fatty meat and more nutrients. A carton of 6 eggs was given to each guest to commemorate Easter Sunday. I am going to brainstorm how I plan to prepare and cook these "immature gems." Shall I have them poached, fried, scrambled? En cocotte, benedict, or scotched? One thing is certain: screwing up is not an option.
Berkshire porks rolling around in the mud. The stench was nauseating. I wonder which one will be dragged to the slaughter house next?
Perhaps this lazy oaf.
Cattle grazing in the pastures. Peace and tranquility reign supreme on the farm, and the trails provide great walks in the fall. It was quite hot and stale, and there was no breeze on the farm's grounds. We all opted for the 8 course surprise menu. Everyone was asked what their dietary preferences were, and based on that Chef Dan and the team created tailor-made menus for each of us. To begin, garden vegetables grown from their greenhouse with an herb spritzer: carrots, purple and yellow cauliflowers, and a succulent leafy green called ficoïde glaciale.
The most delicious beet burgers with warm sesame toast buns and a dollop of goats cheese.
The mighty ficoïde glaciale, bursting with verdant flavour. The frosty bubbles on the leaves come from the soil in which it grows, where it is indigenous to the sea coasts near Brittany, France. They are slightly citrusy and carry an icy crunch that makes it perfect for garnishing. To find out where to purchase it in the city, check out the NYTimes article on the frosty plant.
Baloney and Bresaolo.
Bone marrow with crispy pancetta served in bone. Note: this will clog your arteries, but it's 100% worth it if you're not overweight.
Roasted parsnip with ketchup.
Red Mullet, skin torched with a spicy sauce. It tasted sashimi grade and melted in your mouth. Move over Fatty T, there's a new kid in town.
Grains harvested in biblical times are seeing a resurgence among artisan farmers (from top): red fife; spelt; freekeh; emmer.
Red fife brioche with black pepper, mustard green ramp and mustard seed jam, and fresh ricotta.
Baby leeks and broccoli rabe grilled with polenta mousse and at the bottom a trifecta of grated parmesan, lardo and young egg yolk, served on triangular stone slabs. The smokiness from the grilled vegetables merely heightened the creaminess of the mousse. To accompany the freshly baked potato onion bread and matzoh (from left, above): hudson valley butter, fines salt (tarragon, parsley, celery leaf and chervil), and carrot salt.
A slow cooked stone barns spring easter egg with pistou and lettuce broth. I stared in utter bliss as I tore the white outer layer to unveil a glistening yolk that burst into a linoleum stream, like crude oil a thick, viscous liquid trickling slowly but steadily into the green. Gold rush!
Homemade linguine made with immature egg yolks, tossed with black trumpet mushrooms and grated with immature egg yolks. There is a whole science behind the immature egg yolk which I will refrain from elucidating as it is beyond my proletariat mind's comprehension, but I will note that the pasta had a richer, roe-esque taste that masked the starchiness of regular pasta.
The culmination of farm to table cuisine: my fat friend turned into a beautifully roasted, succulent and tender pork chop with hazelnut salsify sauce and romaine lettuce, accompanied with a spring vegetable broth spiked with sherry (below). The pork must have been sous vide, it was near perfection.
To cleanse the palette, a champagne jelly and homemade yoghurt sorbet with pink grapefruits and fennel seed lady fingers. It was the perfect synergy between bitterness, acidity and sweetness, stirred together with a finger that was buttery and fluffy. I'd hitherto only had hard and crunchy lady fingers, but these were like slender madelaines, pillowy and soft with an aniseed aftertaste.
And the final course of the evening, a multi-textured glass of coffee foam, chocolate sorbet, crunchy spice crumble and moist spice cake. Incredible.
Blue Hills makes their own charcoal using an elaborate gas machine. What you are looking at is bones that were used for stock and a lobste heads, which impart the most divine smokey flavours when burnt under a grill. The restaurant's efforts to become a sustainable farm that minimizes wastage and their carbon foot prints make it one of the most noble and valiant food centres I've read or come across. Every restaurant should aspire to be as sustainable as Blue Hill (but then again, not everyone has the space for a farm). It's all about working with local artisans and food purveyors in your area, because the sustainable food movement is no longer a trend; it is the golden standard.
A mini green house in the private dining room.
To end the meal, petite fours consisting of homemade Stone Barns milkshakes and pistachio pralines (if I could I would have bought boxes to bring home for everyone), it tasted like the best baclava in the Middle East (sans sirop, crispy, flakey, crunchy) coated in an ungodly delicious chocolate. My mediocre home-cooked meals will never taste the same again.

Blue Hills at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road, Tarrytown NY 10591 (aka Sleepy Hollow)
Best to take the Metro North at Grand Central to Tarrytown, roughly 35 minute train journey. Take a taxi from the station to the farm (5 persons = no more than $20)