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Stealthy, steady success for a 40th birthday bash – Part 2

August 20, 2014

So the husband turned 40 earlier this August, and was given total VIP treatment by me, the kids and the good people at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.

And because Changi Airport, particularly Terminal 3, is our family’s favouritest place in this country, it was especially special for us to be celebrating Fatherkao’s birthday there, staycating at one of the ‘World’s Top Ten Airport Hotels’.

From my stealth liaising a month before the birthday surprise to the day we checked out, my family was warmly hosted at Crowne Plaza. The Marketing Manager was fully attentive to the needs of our family of five as she arranged for us to check into the 36-square-metres Deluxe Twin Club Room with an extra rollaway bed so we could all sleep comfortably. And when she learned that the entire staycation would be a surprise birthday celebration for Fatherkao, she gamely offered to place a cake in the room so I didn’t have to run around the airport with kids in tow to hunt for one prior to checking in.

Crowne Plaza Deluxe Twin Room: Two little people are getting comfortable!

The Crowne Plaza Deluxe Twin Room: two little people are getting comfortable!

Checking out the room, and lazing on the rollaway bed

Checking out the room, and lazing on the rollaway bed

The glass panelled bathroom! And so we thought we'd be in full view of everyone when we shower, until we found blinds!

The glass panelled bathroom! And so we thought we’d be in full view of everyone when we shower, until we found the blinds!

I did nothing but turn up, check in, blow the balloons and light the candles with the kids to create some party atmosphere for the birthday boy.

This was special delivery, arranged by the Marketing Manager, who thought it'd be nice to have a cake at check in

This was special delivery, arranged by the Marketing Manager, who thought it’d be nice to have a cake at check in. The Lobby Lounge has one of the best cake selections, in my opinion. Because this cake was absolute heaven.

We were also given exclusive Club Lounge Access, and there, the kids got juice, the adults had coffee, and we all spent a lovely afternoon together after the cake-cutting, watching Fatherkao teach Ben how to play a game a chess.

Ready to lounge!

Ready to lounge!

First, some chess. Then, some juice!

First, some chess. Then, some juice!

The Club Lounge at Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport was such a respite. At the lounge, we could look out and see the bustling city traffic on one side and a calming rainforest pool view on the other. The best part of it was, we had the place largely to ourselves.

City view from the Club window

City view from the Club window

Pool view from the Club window

Pool view from the Club window

We checked out the pool after we were done with our lounging, and I must say, I haven’t seen so much open space for a while in concrete jungle Singapore.

A pool with a view

A pool with a view when you look out and up

I’ve never swam in a pool like this, amidst lush greenery and wooden sun decks. It was like being in an island resort while in a city. I loved the space I could look out to, and the planes I could look up at. The kids enjoyed exploring the pool in their floats, although the water was extremely cold and being in it made our teeth chatter so much we had to head to the bathtub in the room immediately after for a warm soak.

I think the kids had the most fun being in the bathtub in full view of us looking in from the room on our beds. Give these kids warm water any time. They haven’t learned to swim yet so they’d much prefer the safety of the tub.

Before dinner we headed to the Club Lounge again, which was on the same floor as our room and the pool – and oh how so convenient to just pop by whenever we wanted – to enjoy evening cocktails, mocktails and canapés. I loved that at 5.30pm when we were there, there was absolutely no one (the hotel folks say the tourists usually head out to town and weekends are quieter than weekdays). We had the entire lounge to ourselves, and were given such royal treatment, getting served drinks of our choice, snacks and then getting our photos taken.

Oh the spread of canapes! This was like dinner for me!

Oh the spread of canapés! This was like dinner for us already!

We sneaked out while the littlest was napping to have some snacks and drinks

We sneaked out while the littlest was napping to have some snacks and drinks

I had a mocktail, he had a Singapore Sling!

I had a mocktail, he had a Singapore Sling!

Can you tell? The birthday boy was one happy camper, and was savouring every minute of his 40th birthday.

Later in the evening, we were hosted by Azur, the award-winning restaurant at Level 2 in Crowne Plaza for Fatherkao’s birthday dinner, and had some of his closest buds join us for more celebration over food, wine and laughs. At the restaurant, we talked and laughed over a good buffet spread of Eastern and Western cuisines – something which we haven’t done so with our friends for a while.

And what an even more pleasant surprise to find that there was yet another surprise for the birthday boy with yet another birthday song and cake.

Everyone's really making sure the birthday boy realises he is 40!

Everyone’s really making sure somebody realises he is 40!

Fatherkao was more than happy to be eating cake again. Not before he tried to clean off the zero in the ‘40‘ which was piped on his plate.

So he cleaned off the zero, and wished he was 4 instead

So he cleaned off the zero, and wished he was 4 instead

Still in denial, this man.

After dinner, the men continued with more wine and talk, while their wives and kids lazed in the cosy hotel room. Nothing would have pleased my husband more than this: to be able to enjoy good wine with his buddies whom he has known for decades and to cheers to more good years ahead.

The best things in life: food, friends and family

The best things in life: food, friends and family

Someone once said, “Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar but the best improve with age.” I certainly married someone that’s turning into fine wine at 40.

You’re not old, dear. You’re just mature. 

——-

Thank you, everyone that came to make Fatherkao’s day, and Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport, for your hospitality and impeccable service. You’ve made this birthday really special and have set the standard for all the other staycations to come, because Fatherkao says it’s the best one he’s had so far. We’ve done A LOT of staycations since 2004, and if he says so, you’re truly something!

——–

Disclosure: Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport sponsored our 2D1N staycation-and-birthday-celebration for Fatherkao, and hosted us at Azur for dinner. We had exclusive access to the Crowne Plaza Club, and had our breakfast there the next day as well. I did not receive any monetary compensation, and this post was a result of the wonderful experience we’ve had celebrating a milestone and being pampered silly. This may be the most unlikely place to consider having a staycation, but I tell you – the SPACE you get! Being away from the crowd and having such exclusivity is totally worth it, if you’re someone like me who is tired of too many malls, too many people and  too much noise.

This was our breakfast at the Club Lounge - we had the place all to ourselves on a beautiful Sunday morning

This was our breakfast at the Club Lounge – we had the place all to ourselves on a beautiful Sunday morning

Entrance to Crowne Plaza

The entrance to Crowne Plaza

More details:

Crowne Plaza is connected to Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 via a seamless, air-conditioned link bridge that gives you easy access to the shops and F&B outlets that operate round-the-clock.

A 2D1N stay in a deluxe room on a weekend starts from SGD263 and includes breakfast. The deluxe rooms feature an ergonomic workspace, comfortable beds, ensuite bathroom with separate rainshower and bathtub, and free WiFi connection.

Overnight parking is available at the airport for SGD20.

Food, glorious food! Motherkao loves... Nat Kao

For the love of Korean food (II): jjajangmyeon

August 2, 2014

The other day I had to make jjajangmyeon.

Because?

Because this:

KWB_1

KWB_2

Gah, why so cool, Woo Bin-sshi. You had me at jjajangmyeon

I referred to the recipe from Maangchi and adapted it to suit the tastebuds of the kids. I bought the blackbean paste from the Cold Storage at Compass Point and a pack of buckwheat noodles conveniently placed next to the blackbean paste on the shelves.

Chunjang

Instead of pork belly, I used 假腰肉 (literally translated: fake waist meat), a part of the pig which the kids like to eat, and which is also cheaper than the loin fillet. Or sometimes just strips of shabu shabu pork. And instead of the zucchini, daikon and potatoes, I used carrots and some bunashimeji mushrooms, and of course lots of onions.

When they are all diced, here goes:

1. Stir fry pork with vegetable oil (I use Knife’s Shallot Oil) until golden brown, remove pork from pan and pour away excess oil

2. Stir fry vegetables beginning with hardest to the softest: so carrots, onions, mushrooms

3. Clear a space in the centre of the wok by pushing ingredients to the edges

4. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the centre of the wok and then the blackbean paste (I added whole pack the first time, and 3/4 the second when I made jjajangbap). Stir with wooden spoon for 1 minute. Mix everything in the wok and keep stirring.

5. Add 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoon of brown sugar (I found the paste really salty!) and simmer for 10 min

Jjajang in a wok

6. Open the lid, stir for a well mixed thick consistency and add a little sesame oil (I totally skipped the starch)

7. Serve with noodles or rice

Jjajangmyeon

Jjajangbap

My kids don’t like cucumbers, so I topped my dish with sesame seeds instead.

Gah, why so cute Nat Kao-sshi, you make me want to cook this everyday just to admire the moustache.

Jjajangmyeon moustache

 Read also For the Love of Korean Food (I): Simple Homecooked here

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Happy days Motherkao loves... Reviews

So fine, yet so casual [Review of E’spuma Lab]

July 22, 2014

The husband and I are huge fans of Top Chef and Masterchef. We watch the programmes to get inspiration for our cooking, and eating, of course.

Because we catch the various seasons of these programmes quite regularly, food looking like this…

Wild duck and wild apples

Photo source

And chefs using this odd-looking cannister to pump out foam like this…

iSi Whipper

Photo source

…are not sights uncommon to us. Just that we’ve never had the opportunity to try food cooked this way, or have them plated like such and put on our tables.

Then our chance came one Saturday ago.

We were invited by E’spuma Lab, a new casual diner that aims to bring innovative culinary techniques like espuma and sous vide out of Michelin-star restaurants and into the casual dining scene in Singapore at wallet-friendly prices. I was informed that all the dishes for the tasting session would be foamed, espuma-style and that every item on the menu would be something that would fill me up and satisfy children and adults alike. I have seen chefs on TV making sauces and desserts using the steel-like cannister (which is called the espuma siphon, I later found out) and was genuinely curious how anything prepared by this technique would taste like.

Most of all, I wanted to see how cooking techniques so atas would finally be revealed and prepared to be tasted by commoners like me and my family.

For the uninitiated, espuma is Spanish for foam or froth, and is a culinary technique in which an espuma siphon is used to infuse air into the food, creating an airily light texture. This technique adds a very interesting dimension to natural ingredients, especially those that have been mashed, pureed or juiced.

Sous vide is a culinary technique in which food is cooked in a vacuum at a constant temperature, using a thermal circulator. This technique ensures perfectly cooked eggs and evenly cooked meat.

So this, ladies and gents, this was the food plated and prepared for us that evening. But atas no more, I tell you, because E’spuma Lab’s sole mission is to make haute cuisine totally accessible and affordable to people like you – and me.

Why I am not a food blogger: The first dish that came was this -Sautéed Mushrooms with Espuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) - and I started feeding hungry kids. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

Why I am not a food blogger: The first dish that came was this -Sautéed Mushrooms with Espuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) – and I started feeding hungry kids.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

And this was the 2nd - Curry Chicken with E'spuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) - and I started feeding myself. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

And this was the 2nd dish to arrive – Curry Chicken with E’spuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) – and I started feeding myself.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

Then the Sous Vide Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Salmon Skin (SGD3.80) came and the son, who loves eggs, devoured the whole thing. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

Then the Sous Vide Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Salmon Skin (SGD3.80) came and the son, who loves eggs, devoured the whole thing.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

Spaghetti with Swedish meatballs and E'spuma Caramelised Onion Sauce

Then more mains came, and at this point, I was yelling, ‘Stop! I need photos first!’ Spaghetti with Swedish meatballs and E’spuma Caramelised Onion Sauce (SGD6.80)

Spaghetti with Chicken Cutlet and E'spuma Bacon Sauce (SGD6.80)

Spaghetti with Chicken Cutlet and E’spuma Bacon Sauce (SGD6.80)

Fragrant Rice with Pan Seared Sous Vide Chicken Breast and E'spuma Pesto Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Pan Seared Sous Vide Chicken Breast and E’spuma Pesto Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Cajun Chicken Leg and E'spuma Curry Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Cajun Chicken Leg and E’spuma Curry Sauce

Oh, happiness!

I hear there’s also espuma-ed mushroom soup, espuma battered fish and chips and new items on the menu every time Chef gets inspiration! Happy times, people, these are happy times.

And believe me, that evening I was really happy. Really, really happy. I loved everything I tasted, and I am not saying this just because I got a free meal. I would gladly pay every cent (and maybe more) for whatever I ate (and they were really priced reasonably – just look at each portion and respective price!) I especially loved, loved, loved the curry chicken dish; it was so light and satisfying. There was absolutely no flavour overdose (also known as jelat, in localspeak) because the curry foam was so airily delightful. Every sauce that came espuma-ed was a hit with the kids, Fatherkao and me.

No cloying texture, no starchy heaviness. Only pure foam heaven.

And just so you know, for our desserts we had durian fritters – which were so not-oily that you could pop a whole bunch in your mouth and have a good loud durian burp at the end of it.

E'spuma Batter D24 Durian Fritters (SGD3.80)

E’spuma Batter D24 Durian Fritters (SGD3.80)

As we did.

You can pop these fritters in and not feel that they are oily or cloyingly sweet at all!

You can pop these fritters in and not feel that they are oily or cloyingly sweet at all!

Now I can finally tell myself that I’ve come close to what the judges were tasting in Top Chef and Masterchef. Take that, Padma Lakshmi. By the way, just so you know, Chef Teo Yeow Siang, the brain behind E’spuma’s innovative dishes, has 13 years of experience and has won many international awards; so technically he’s better than any Top Chef alum any time. I’m wishing that E’spuma Lab would expand their operations soon and be found in a mall near me. Good on the working crowd for now, since it’s the only one and only at Pomo Mall (formerly Paradiz Centre at Selegie Road) but if I’m there and need a meal, I wouldn’t even need to think once.

We checked out the humble kitchen with sophisticated equipment (the espuma siphons and sous vide cooker) and were touched that this is a place with heart. No trade secrets, no airs. Just good food at really low prices for all.

We checked out the humble kitchen with sophisticated equipment (the espuma siphons and sous vide cooker) and were touched that this is a place with heart. No trade secrets, no airs. Just good food at really low prices for all.

More details:

E’spuma Lab is at 1 Selegie Road, Pomo Mall, #01-20/21 Singapore 1883306.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 11am to 9pm

Contact number: 8222 1113 (Why need contact number huh, you ask. Because if you are near, you can cater! Durian fritters to go!)

… … … …

And just so you get to try what I did, I’m giving away my $10 voucher (yes, the one which the folks gave me in my press kit) to you so you can go check out E’spuma Lab! (FYI, their set meals cost only $8.80!)

If you want to win it, simply LIKE E’spuma’s Facebook Page and leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you might like to try!

Giveaway ends 30 July 2014. I’ll mail the voucher to the winner after the random draw!

Winner announcement: CONGRATS to Samantha! The list randomiser picked you and you’ll be eating at E’spuma Lab soon!

Espuma winner

Disclosure: My family and I were invited by E’spuma Lab for a food tasting session. No monetary compensation was received for this post and all opinions here are my own, with input from the big and little tasters. 

UPDATE AS OF 22 OCT 2015: I was told that they’ve since ceased operations at POMO. Which makes me very sad. So very, very sad.

Food, glorious food! Motherkao loves...

For the love of Korean food (I): simple homecooked

July 18, 2014

I’ve been subjecting the family to a lot of Korean food these days and it’s all thanks to watching too much kshows, I tell you. I don’t know how many times I ran to the kitchen in the middle of the night to cook myself a pot of ramyeon while watching Boys Over Flower, how many times I craved for beef japchae watching City Hunter and how many times I wanted to reach for the phone and order me some chicken (and beer) while watching You From Another Star (chimek, remember?). And every time the folks over at Running Man had food games, I found myself wanting to eat tteokbokkikimchi and jjambbong.

Lately, I make the kids and the husband eat a lot of pork cooked in this particular sauce / marinade from Bibigo (that’s supposed to give a BBQ-à la-bulgogi flavour to the meat) :

I love both the Original and the one with pineapple

I love both the original and the one with pineapple

For the kids, I make it with the sauce without the heat. It’s a really easy one pot meal and I modify it to suit the children’s palate. I just fry sliced onions, shallots, and garlic with shabu shabu pork that’s marinated with the sauce, add some cornstarch and an egg to make a thicker gravy and pour everything on a bowl of hot rice.

The kids love this. For myself, I add the heat with the red pepper version and kimchi on the side, and we all have a hearty rice meal like that. When we do eventually get sick of pork, I figured I’ll be doing the same with chicken and beef.

Bibigo's 'Hot & Spicy' Korean BBQ Sauce

Bibigo’s ‘Hot & Spicy’ Korean BBQ Sauce

When in need of soup, the fastest thing I’ve done is to boil a pot of water with a huge tablespoon of bean paste and throw in some ready-made, frozen vegetarian Korean dumplings.

A hearty meal with just bulgogi pork with rice and soup

A hearty meal with just bulgogi pork with rice and soup

Now, that’s so much faster than what we usually do for Chinese cooking. Every time we want to have soup, we have to start boiling pork or chicken bones with red dates, huaishan, beiqi and goujizi by 3pm so we can get soup that tastes like soup (and not water) by 7.

It’s not a big hit with the kids as compared to my Chinese soup but hey, if they need some liquid to go with their rice, we can have it like that too.

I recently also made the popular ikan bilis Korean side dish which was a big hit and something everyone loved. I referred to The Domestic Goddess Wannabe‘s instructions here, but modified them by airfrying my ikan bilis in my Philips Airfryer first and threw everything in after heating up the sauce. I used roasted sesame also, instead of toasting sesame seeds in a dry pan as she suggested:

Two versions of myulchi - one with heat, the other with honey soy, plus a huge japchae side dish to eat for dinner (and for tomorrow's lunch!)

Two versions of myulchi – one with heat, the other with honey soy, plus a huge japchae side dish to eat for dinner (and for tomorrow’s lunch!)

I made two versions – one spicy and the other with honey soy. They were super addictive!

And for me, no dinner experience is complete without a bit of japchae. This is the dish I get to vary however I want, because I am usually the only one eating (and finishing) it. Here’s a step-by-step guide which I referred to to make my japchae, again adapted from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe.

I usually boil the sweet potato vermicelli instead of soaking it. I’ve added beef on one occasion, and pork on another with garlic, shallots, onions and whatever that I could find in the fridge – carrots, radish, cabbage, mushrooms. The tip is to fry the hardest veg to the softest, and the meat last, and then the noodles with the seasoning however you like it.

I’m hoping to share more about what I do at home making Korean food, because right now, I can’t get enough of it! Do you love Korean food too? Share your links with me or reveal where’s good to eat Korean and what’s good to have in Singapore!

 

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Happy days Motherkao loves... Reviews

I ate 4 kings, and then ate like one at Marina South Curry House [Review]

July 2, 2014

I’ve never been a fan of any of those Four Heavenly Kings 四大天王 in the 80’s and 90’s – and I don’t care for them anyway (ok, maybe except for Mr Kwok) – but I ate them all up last week which was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.

Yes, I did. No lah, not them.

四大天王

I’m talking about this dish that I tasted at Marina South Curry House that knocked my socks off totally.

四大天王 Marina South Curry House Version

四大天王 Marina South Curry House Version

Yep, the restaurant named it ‘The Four Heavenly Kings’, and it’s a vegetable dish stir-fried in the most delicious rempah made of sambal hei bee (dried shrimps) and the best combination of brinjal, lady’s fingers, long beans and petai (stink beans) one can ever taste in this corner of Planet Earth.

Ok, I got too excited and carried away. Anyway. This is how the post should start.

We were invited for a food tasting session and media launch of Marina South Curry House which is located at Amara Shopping Centre at Tras Street (and not at Marina South, though it used to be there before every space we once knew about that place to fly kites became home to Gardens by the Bay!) last weekend to try their Signature Claypot Fish Head Bee Hoon which gained much popularity since its feature on the Taiwanese Food Programme, 美食大三通, and their famous Red Curry Chicken and Salted Egg Chicken Wings.

Our family was all ready for a feast to conclude the June holidays, and so to Marina South Curry House we went…

The restaurant is located 100 Tras Street #03-14. 100AM (or formerly known as Amara Shopping Centre) S079027

The restaurant is located at 100 Tras Street #03-14, 100AM (or formerly known as Amara Shopping Centre) S079027

Where we were greeted with a nostalgic and an old school feel about everything in that place…

Retro in the house, and the music my grandfather and father would love to listen to, playing in the background

Retro in the house, and the music my grandfather and father would love to listen to, playing in the background

Even the kids were given goodie bags that had all the old school games like pick-up sticks, chapteh and sticky ol’ school bubble balloons!

We've been looking high and low for these and couldn't find them! One would have thought these sticks have gone into extinction...

We’ve been looking high and low for these and couldn’t find them! One would have thought these sticks have gone into extinction…

And the Hungry Hungry Hippos game (read about our craze here) we brought to keep the kids busy was one of the things that fit in just right in this place with such a retro feel.

My hungry hippo-boys chomping away marbles while waiting

My hungry hippo-boys chomping away marbles while waiting

We were first served drinks and were told we had to try their Original Buah Long Long Drink. Which was extremely refreshing, and as we would discover later, an excellent complement to the curry dish. We also had their Iced Barley, Iced Sour Plum Calamansi and Iced Sour Plum Lime. Such great thirst quenchers.

The Original Buah Long Long Drink ($3.90); Iced Barley ($3.90); Iced Sour Plum Calamansi ($3.90) and Iced Sour Plum Lime ($3.90)

The Original Buah Long Long Drink ($3.90); Iced Barley ($3.90); Iced Sour Plum Calamansi ($3.90) and Iced Sour Plum Lime ($3.90)

The Signature Claypot Fish Head Bee Hoon took a while to make its arrival (I hear you have to wait for 15 to 20 minutes during peak hours) but when it finally came, it was a tantalising and flavourful broth that tasted of fresh fish. It’s a little different from the milky versions and those with XO I have tasted before. This one tasted light, yet the broth had a kind of thickness that was befitting of a Fish Head Bee Hoon dish.

Signature Fish Head Bee Hoon

Signature Fish Head Bee Hoon in Claypot ($18.90)

I hear that no MSG is used in the cooking process, and the chef uses fresh seabass and simmers the soup for six hours every day.

This dish was Ben’s favourite that evening.

We also had the Luohan Chye, which in my opinion, was pretty normal.

Luohan Chye: tofu, taupok, mushrooms and small bok choy ($9.90)

Luohan Chye: tofu, taupok, mushrooms and small bok choy ($9.90)

The Salted Chicken Wings came piping hot and browned perfectly with salted egg coated on the skins. This dish was a nice change from the usual prawn paste chicken wings we usually have at tzi char stalls. Needless to say, those wings were the most yummy things for the two people in our family who absolutely love savoury, deep fried food. Who else but Becks and Nat.

Salted Chicken Wings ($12.90)

Salted Chicken Wings ($12.90)

Unfortunately, we have no pictures of ourselves licking our fingers to show because, well, we were all too busy eating! Plus, we had oily hands from the chicken wings.

The Red Curry Chicken came boiling in a mini wok and it tasted like there was an explosion of flavours and spices in my mouth. Very, very spicy, so be warned! I can take heat very well but this…

Red Curry Chicken ($6.90)

Red Curry Chicken ($6.90)

This was really HOT!

I requested to try the Yellow Curry and Green Curry for a point of comparison, and concluded, there’s something very special in the Red one that’s making it very spicy. The Yellow one was my favourite among the three and I like the blend of fragrant spices that’s used to make it.

Ooh, more yummy curry in yellow and green

Ooh, more yummy curry in yellow and green

So we were done with the Signature dishes, and I was like, what else is on their menu that I must try? That was when I spotted…

‘The Four Heavenly Kings‘.

The words just stand out! Pity there isn't any description and I had to ask.

The words just stand out! Maybe the grammarphobe in me also noticed that it should be in plural. Pity there wasn’t any description of the dish and I had to ask.

Can I eat them?

My curiosity in this dish proved to be the highlight of my tasting session. Oh, Marina South Curry House, why isn’t this Signature too? It’s TOO GOOD not to be, in my opinion. I know not everyone is a fan of petai, but trust me, when you taste them cooked this way, you’ll be converted!

Four Heavenly Kings: brinjal, petai, lady's fingers and long beans on a plate

Four Heavenly Kings: brinjal, petai, lady’s fingers and long beans on a plate

I also ordered their Sweet and Sour Pork for the kids to try, and they liked it. It wasn’t exactly spectacular; just homely and well-balanced. I didn’t need any more “spectacular” – ‘The Four Heavenly Kings‘ did that for me already.

Sweet and Sour Pork ($8.90)

Sweet and Sour Pork ($8.90)

It was a satisfying dinner indeed.

Marina South Curry House is a good place to go if you’d like some reminiscing of the past with its retro ambience and a taste of classic homely Chinese cooking. It’s called ‘Curry House’ but don’t be fooled; the curries are delightful and so are all the other non-curry dishes which are all made equally with passion and culinary dedication by their experienced chef.

Thank you, Marina South Curry House, for hosting my family for dinner and for such a flavourful end to our June holidays!

The kids and me, we went in Retro, can you see?

The kids and me, we went in Retro, can you see?

Disclosure: We were invited to Marina South Curry House for a food tasting session to bring you this review. No monetary compensation was received for this post, and all opinions here are mine. Calories also mine. Full stomach and expanded waistline too.

 

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Happy days Reviews The Kao Kids

Homecooked goodness this Father’s Day’s [Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) Review]

June 15, 2014

I’ve been reading a steady stream of rave reviews of Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) from the food blogs I follow and the parent bloggers that I know. These folks who’s been to the popular restaurant which has been awarded ‘SPH Best Voted Top 10 Favourite Restaurant’ and serves one of the best Assam fish head have all written about how homely 姑妈’s food tastes and how warm they feel eating at the casual restaurant with their families.

Gu Ma Jia Restaurant

Gu Ma Jia: 45 Tai Thong Crescent Singapore 347866

Their posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here were enough to make me salivate and begin planning for a grand extended family outing since last year.

Of course, the main draw, (besides being guaranteed of great food) was the fact that in our world of exorbitant dining out prices complete with GST and service charge, there would be food that’s affordable and NO service charge and GST.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t make a trip down to Sennett Estate located along Tai Thong Crescent (where I also had many fond memories of turtle soup) for any special occasion this year because my father had a stroke. For months he spent overcoming the trauma and slowly recuperating, first at a hospital and then at a community hospital for rehab. He finally returned home last month and is gradually recovering. However, going places like the doctor’s would often leave him feeling dizzy and unwell which also means he’s pretty much home-bound and going out would be more of a torture for him.

So guess what the wonderful people at Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) did? If we can’t go to the restaurant, they’d bring the restaurant to us! I am so touched by the lovely gesture of the lady boss (姑妈 herself!) who prepared food to be taken away so my family can have a homely Father’s Day dinner with my dad in the comfort of his home.

So yesterday, I brought these back for my father:

Sumptuous spread

Glorious, sumptuous spread!

The food may not look picture perfect in these takeaway boxes but I can assure you the food tasted awesome. We ate it the moment they were brought back and it was still piping hot, deliciously fresh and delightfully wholesome. There were no traces of MSG, no choking saltiness as with most tzi char and no cloying stickiness from starchy gravy sauces. Even my dad, who always seemed to have no appetite for anything said that he liked what he was eating.

We had the Special Tofu with Lingzhi Mushrooms and Eight Treasures Vegetables, which my kids loved…

Tofu with Mushrooms

Special Tofu with Lingzhi Mushrooms [$12]

Eight Treasures

Eight Treasures [$12/$18/$24]

It was their first time having crispy lotus root slices, and even though with the taking away the lotus slices weren’t so crispy anymore, they ate them all up and saved nothing for the adults. Bah, these kids.

We also had their Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil and I was half expecting a typical black and oily 麻油鸡. Only that I was so wrong about what 麻油鸡 is from 姑妈家. It was my favourite dish last evening and I could drink up the gravy-soup till its last drop. The chicken was cooked in thin slices of ginger, black fungus and chinese coriander, together with the most fragrant Chinese wine. Very, very nourishing indeed.

Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil

Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil [$15/$22/$28]

Two of the most popular dishes with the adults last evening had to be the White Pepper Crab and their acclaimed signature Assam Fish Head. If you’ve not tried them, I think it’s time to add these two items to your food bucket list. I’ve never tasted anything so fresh, so delicious, so addictive.

The White Pepper Crab at 姑妈家 is cooked using only white pepper from Sarawak and tasted gorgeously sweet and fresh.

Spotted: White pepper from Sarawak at the restaurant counter

Spotted: White pepper from Sarawak at the restaurant counter

Why, but of course. I hear 姑妈 heads down to the market every day to pick the best ingredients for her food instead of having them delivered to her by a supplier.

White pepper crab

White pepper crab [seasonal price]

Which also explains why the Assam red snapper head tasted so heavenly because the flesh from the fish was absolutely firm and fresh. The Assam curry packed a punch with a good balance of spicy and sour although with my first slurp I found it too smartingly acidic! But the curry grows on you, and soon you find yourself drowning your grains of rice with every bit of Assam curry like addiction.

Assam fish head curry

Assam fish head curry [$28]

This, last night, was also Dad’s favourite.

It was truly enjoyable to be eating dinner at the comfort of the home with food that didn’t have its quality compromised despite them being taken away. We were all very happily eating last night, and even my cousin who came with her family to visit tasted and raved about the (leftover) food which still tasted fresh and good two hours later.

Two thumbs up for this homely restaurant with good food. What a gem. What a place with heart.

P/S: Happy Father’s Day, Papa! I hope the food made you glad!

Of daughters and grandchildren

Of daughters and grandchildren

My loving mom and dad

My loving mom and dad

Disclosure: We had the privilege of having this meal, with compliments from Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received from this post and all opinions are my own, with feedback from the rest of the tasters in the family.

***

PP/S: I’ve linked up with some of the most awesome parenting and food blogs I follow so you can also read their reviews of the restaurant, which include Andy’s Sengkang Babies (the man’s got four kids!), Irene’s Singapore Mom Blogs, Mabel’s Amazingly Still, Estella’s So Oddly DreamlikeSeth Lui, Derrick’s SG Food on Foot and The Domestic Goddess Wannabe, who bakes and cooks and shares some of the most mouthwatering recipes, and whom I have the privilege of being acquainted with. I’m still waiting for her permission to worship her. Yes, Diana? Say yes!

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Any time’s a good time to eat cake! – An early Father’s Day celebration courtesy of Emicakes

June 4, 2014

The kids were up to something last week. I told them a cake would be delivered for their father so we could celebrate Father’s Day (which falls on 15 June this year) in advance, and they quickly got to work.

They took out crayons and paper, and started drawing furiously.

“To surprise Dada!” they said, and began to put on paper the messages they wish to convey to their father.

And when their father returned from work, we surprised him with this lovely cake from Emicakes…

Emicakes Father's Day Cake

And a wall plastered with three drawings.

Kids' drawings 1

Kids' drawings 2

And what made their father even more surprised was the fact that he sunk his teeth not into a typical vanilla or chocolate cake we are so used to having because of the kids but gorgeously light and heavenly tiramisu. I figured he deserves to be indulged this way and selected one of his favourite cake fillings for his sweet treat.

And the best part of Emicakes’ tiramisu? It’s non-alcoholic and suitable for children too. Just look at these happy faces.

With Dada

Happy faces

Ooh, the glorious Italian cheese cake dipped in Nescafé® and cream cheese is just perfect for all of us! This is cake happiness, all thanks to the generous people at Emicakes!

Tiramisu

And to share this cake happiness, Emicakes is giving away THREE 20-cm Daddy-bowler-hat-and-moustache cake (with fillings of your choice) to THREE readers of this blog to celebrate Daddy-Awesomeness! To participate in the giveaway, simply follow this to qualify:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends 8 June 2014. Winners will be announced on 9 June 2014.

You can also indulge Dad this Father’s Day! Get a 15% off all featured Father’s Day cakes by 11 June 2014 and enjoy some cake happiness this year with Dad! For more details, check out Emicakes’ website or FB page.

Emicakes Promo

Disclosure: We were given a cake from Emicakes for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and opinions here are our own.

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Prata flipping fun at Casuarina Curry Restaurant

April 21, 2014

Before I start this post, can I say for the record that I’m not saying all these because Casuarina Curry Restaurant invited us?

I’m a huge fan of their crispy pratas, teh tahrik and chicken masala, have been a regular there since forever, and it is my favourite place for roti prata EVER.

Ok, just need to get that out first.

Now you can imagine how stoked I was when they got us to attend their prata-making workshop.

Don’t play play, ok. Prata restaurants like them have blogger relations and can also make prata experts out of you.

My kids were equally thrilled, having also tasted their crispy plain pratas, egg pratas, plaster pratas and tissue pratas on many a breakfast outing with the husband and me. And they couldn’t wait to get their hands on the dough and learn how to flip them!

And so to the restaurant at Upper Thomson we went.

Before we began, we met our Master Teacher, Uncle Babu, had our hands all scrubbed and cleaned, and watched a demo by the Master himself…

First, a demo by the Master

First, a demo by the Master

Then we proceeded to oil the dough and knead it with the ball of our palms…

Ben kneading

Ben kneading

And now it's Becks' turn to knead

And now it’s Becks’ turn to knead

And learned the really tricky technique of flipping the prata dough!

Flipping our dough! (ft. Becks, Ben, Mom-in-law, Motherkao with Uncle Babu)

Flipping our dough! (ft. Becks, Ben, Mom-in-law, Motherkao with Uncle Babu)

It looks easy but I assure it is nothing like what it looks. Apparently, the prata dough must be flipped only with the wrist of the left hand while the right hand does not move; and it must be done swiftly and deftly.

And clearly, our DNA would have none of such talent.

The kids know it, and they ended up making Zorro masks with huge holes.

And then there were holes !

And then there were holes !

And we all had a good laugh!

Not experts, but a photo with the expert

Not experts, but a photo with the expert

When we were finally done, we were presented with a certificate. Then it was time to eat! We sat down for a hearty meal of pratas, masalas and teh tahriks.

We did a better job eating than flipping, that’s for sure.

We are, afterall, CERTIFIED (not)!

We are, afterall, CERTIFIED (not)!

Our very delish food

Our very delish food

What a feast it was indeed!

Prata for dinner!

Prata for dinner!

To the folks at Casuarina Curry Restaurant: all you prata masters rock! I love your food and the fact that everything you serve is made with so much pride at such affordable prices. Thank you for having us on such a crazily busy Saturday evening!

The ever-entertaining Prata Masters behind the glass window

The ever-entertaining Prata Masters behind the glass window

To Uncle Babu who impressed us with your skills of flipping pratas, the kids had a wonderful time and first experience that evening. This is a drawing from Becks the day after, and it’s specially dedicated to you.

Becks and Uncle Babu: Her prata has many holes, as you can see!

Becks and Uncle Babu: Her prata has many holes, as you can see!

For $15, you can attend a 2-hour prata making workshop and enjoy an all-you-can-eat prata-buffet (plain pratas only) with one free drink. Top up an additional $5 and you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat prata-buffet of assorted pratas with one free drink. I say, this is a must-try for prata lovers and young children, and a good place to bring our foreigner friends should they come for a visit!

Prata Making Workshop

And because I shared this with you, if you can’t finish what you ordered at your all-you-can-eat-prata buffet after the workshop, you know who to call!

Disclosure: We were invited to Casuarina Curry Restaurant for their Prata-Making Workshop. The kind folks at Casuarina picked up the tab and no monetary compensation was received. All opinions here are Motherkao’s own.

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The Kao kids on the loose (and reined) at Candy Empire

March 25, 2014

I’m the kind of mother that throws away sweets in my kids’ goodie bags and ration M&M’s. It’s usually 10 M&M’s for Ben, 10 for Becks and 5 for Nat, and they can only have chocs twice or thrice a week. Most of the time, the Kao kids are given raisins, fruits, yoghurt and nuts to snack on instead. And it’s an absolute no with any kind of fizzy drinks. To date, they have not had a sip of Coke.

Yes, go ahead. You can call them deprived.

I’ve been reprimanded by older folks and other parents for depriving my children of a childhood, for being so strict on sweet treats, flavoured drinks and candies, in particular. But I’d rather be doing this than battling problems of tooth decay, poor appetite and indigestion. I’d rather have people throw stones at me than have my kids turn around one day and say, “Why didn’t you control my intake when you are the adult here, hello? Now, no thanks to you, I have _________ (insert problem).”

So, when Candy Empire sent us an invitation for a private tasting session to celebrate their opening at The Star Vista, I wrote back to explain that I am a strict mother and wouldn’t want to let my children loose at a candy store.

And I thought that was that, until they replied me and assured me that they were inviting us to an exclusive ‘Sunday Spread’ of healthy confectionery, and at Candy Empire, they don’t just sell candies and chocolates – they also feature premium cookies, spreads, macarons and shortbread.

Already quite impressed, and having been so busy these days that there’s just no time to be baking and churning out homemade cookies and cake, I accepted the invitation and brought the kids to Candy Empire.

Candy Empire_At The Star Vista

And they went wild, of course – just by looking at all the things in the huge store that Mama’s been keeping them away from.

At the children’s corner specially set up for kids, they grabbed the jellybeans and marshmallows, and started gobbling them down like there was no tomorrow.

Candy Empire_Sunday Spread 1

By golly, it did look like they were indeed deprived kids, thanks to me.

Fatherkao and I watched – and let them – until they were done with the frenzy. Then, my dear husband sat the kids down and taught the kids an important lesson about choosing right:

“There’s so much to see and taste at a candy store,” he said. “And you’re excited. But you don’t have to gobble the first thing you see. Look around you. There’s other good stuff too.”

And look around they did. And when the kids tasted the chocolates, cookies and fruits dipped in Ovomaltine, there was no looking back.

Candy Empire_Sunday Spread 2

Candy Empire_Sunday Spread 3

Now Ben would say, “Jellybean is nice but cookies and white chocolates are nicer.” And Becks would say tell you she prefers dark chocolates to white ones. Our family had a good time sampling an array of sweet, healthy treats for tea from bisquini cookies to crunchy cream-dipped fruits, and a wonderful afternoon of quality time together.

Candy Empire_Sunday Spread 4

Best of all, our kids learned something about self-control that afternoon, and that to me, was the most precious takeaway from this. Thank you, Candy Empire, for the kind invitation!

Candy Empire constantly brings in novel products all year round, including seasonal treats! Besides chocolates and candies, Candy Empire also has a delectable selection of spreads, cookies and biscuits. Spot an interesting product in the shop and want to find out more before purchasing? Drop by Candy Empire’s blog, World of Candies, to check out confectionery product reviews and the latest confectionery trends!

Candy Empire_Goodie BagDisclosure: We were invited to Candy Empire’s private Sunday Spread tasting at The Star Vista. No monetary compensation was received. We did get a huge bag of confectionery and specially packed goodie bags for the kids! 

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Red wine ribeye seared with love, with compliments from OBE Organic

January 24, 2014

My husband and I love to watch Top Chef and MasterChef together. We get our inspiration to bake and cook from these reality shows. Besides being grippingly entertaining, they are really educational for noob cooks like us, and I always fantasised being able to serve up gourmet looking food all prettily plated and all some day.

Recently, OBE Organic sent us some Australian ribeye steaks, minced beef and beef cubes. Ooooh, how we love our beef! It didn’t take long before Fatherkao jumped into action, got into the kitchen and worked like a chef, taking inspiration from all the reality TV we’ve been watching.

And then single-handedly, he transformed this…

OBE Organic_ribeye

To this…

OBE Organic_Red wine steaks

In a matter of minutes! Looks like somebody’s gonna beat me in fulfilling that crazy dream of mine sooner than I think!

The ribeye steak seared perfectly by him and drizzled with the sauce he made was heavenly. Every bite melted in my mouth and the huge cut that Huber’s Butchery sent us for each portion was so huge it was truly satisfying. I am so not looking at my husband the same way again – man, this man can make a mean plate of steak, and with so much luuurrvve.

Talk about the way through a man’s heart. This woman’s heart has been won over and over with every time he steps into the kitchen. *swoon*

OBE Organic_Chef at work

I tried convincing him to share his recipe on my blog, and although he’s pretty hazy on the details and not giving me precise, exact measurements, I managed to make out what went into his red wine sauce.

Here it is; and oh yes, remember to get OBE Organic Beef which is certified 100% organic and natural, free of chemicals and growth promotants, and delivers amazingly great flavour.

Steak in Red Wine Sauce 

Ingredients:

  • Ribeye steaks
  • knobs of salted butter
  • shallots and garlic
  • olive oil for frying
  • bottle of red wine (we used a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot South African wine, Nederburg)
  • a dash of red wine vinegar
  • a ladle of chicken stock (we make ours with carrots, onions and chicken bones)

Instructions:

1) Fry shallots and garlic with olive oil till caramelised, then add a dash of red wine vinegar.

2) Add 4 glasses of red wine. Let the pan’s contents bubble until the wine has reduced by three-quarters.

3) Now add a ladle or two of chicken stock, butter and reduce the rest of the wine, 1-2 glasses at a time. Regularly skim away any impurities by weaving a small ladle in and out of the top of the sauce. Taste regularly and check for seasoning.

4) Heat a grill pan to sear the steaks with oil and cook them, turning once, 4-5 mins for rare, 7-8 mins for medium, 8-10 mins for well done.

5) Serve the steaks on a bed of greens and pour the red wine sauce around. Remember to pass the sauce through a sieve to remove fine impurities.

You can get premium quality organic beef from OBE Organic at Huber’s Butchery. Shop online till the cows come home at Huber’s or visit their Butchery and Bistro @ Dempsey.

Disclosure: This post was made possible from the kind folks from Huber’s and OBE Organic who fed the Kaos really good stuff from really good cows.

P/S: Just cannot resist the pun!

Also linking up with: