FOOD CRITIC WONG AH YOKE RECOMMENDS

Food Picks: Indocafe-The White House, Luk Yu Restaurant & Teahouse and more

Indocafe – The White House is offering an a la carte buffet of about 30 dishes until Jan 4, for the Christmas and New year festivities. -- PHOTO: THE WHITE HOUSE
Indocafe – The White House is offering an a la carte buffet of about 30 dishes until Jan 4, for the Christmas and New year festivities. -- PHOTO: THE WHITE HOUSE

A PERANAKAN CHRISTMAS

Instead of turkey and ham for the year-end festivities, you can have Penang Peranakan specialities at Indocafe – The White House.

The little-known restaurant housed in one of the bungalows in Scotts Road is offering an a la carte buffet of about 30 dishes until Jan 4, for the Christmas and New year festivities. It usually has only an a la carte menu.

Besides the restaurant’s normal offerings, the chef has also dug up recipes of traditional Penang Peranakan dishes to add to the selection.

These include Jiu Hu Eng Chye, an appetiser of blanched cuttlefish and kangkong served with shrimp paste, and Tempoyak Asparagus, which is stir-fried asparagus with sambal and fermented durian.

My favourite dishes, however, are classic ones on the restaurant’s menu. The filling for the Kueh Pie Tee here is served separate from the pastry cups, and you stuff the cups yourself. This way, the cups stay crisp and fresh.

The Rendang Sapi is also good, with wagyu beef cheeks slow-cooked in a spicy gravy.

Where: Indocafe – The White House, 35 Scotts Road MRT: Newton When: Till Jan 4, daily Price: $48.80 for adults and $28.80 for children Tel: 6733-2656


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PIG OUT

Unlike the Luk Yu in Hong Kong – which is known more for its 81-year history than its food – the Luk Yu restaurant here serves better food and much more than just dim sum. The two restaurants, named after the Tang Dynasty poet Lu Yu, who wrote a book on the history and culture of Chinese tea, are not related.

Dim sum is certainly available but the menu also lists banquet-style Cantonese dishes such as suckling pig.

The restaurant has launched a series of birthday set menus priced from $498 to $888 for 10 persons.

The highlight of the sets is the suckling pig. Roasted over a charcoal pit, the skin is thin and crispy, and the meat moist and tender.

Many restaurants offer to cook the meat as a second dish after serving the skin. Do not go for that here. Just get the pig chopped up and eat it like roast meat because it tastes best this way.

Other dishes on the $498 menu include Double-boiled Shredded Fish Maw & Sea Cucumber and Baked Live Prawns With Salted Egg Yolk.

All the menus include a steamed Longevity Bun, a huge bun in the shape of a peach that is filled with small lotus seed paste buns.

Where: Luk Yu Restaurant & Teahouse, 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point 01-41/42 MRT: Chinatown When: 10am - 10pm daily Price: Set menus from $498 to $888 for 10 persons Tel: 6262-1717


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ABALONE INTENSITY

Huat Kee, an established restaurant in Amoy Street, is known for its traditional Teochew dishes. But over the past few years, third-generation owner Lee Chiang Howe has been expanding into the abalone business by investing in farms abroad and packing ready-to-eat abalone that can be served in his restaurant or at home.

They are available canned in brine, or braised and sold in sealed bags to take away. But if you want to dine at the restaurant, there is a current promotion for its eight-head dried South African abalone. It is braised and comes in a rice and vegetable set for $138 a piece or $78 for half an abalone. The normal price for the whole abalone set is $300.

Dried abalone is more highly prized than fresh or canned ones because the flavour is more intense. The texture is firmer and slightly sticky, which is why good quality dried abalones are described as "candy heart".

The number of heads refers to the weight of the abalones. Eight heads means eight similar-sized dried abalones weigh a total of 1 kati or 600g.

Where: Huat Kee, 74 Amoy Street MRT: Telok Ayer/Tanjong Pagar When: Till Jan 31, daily Price: $138 for whole dried abalone set, $78 for half abalone Tel: 6423-4747


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WINTER REUNION

The Winter Solstice, many older Chinese would tell you, is a more important festival than Chinese New Year. Yet it does not get celebrated much outside the home, where Chinese families usually gather for a reunion dinner.

But that is changing as restaurants realise that it is one more date to entice families to dine out.

Leading the trend is Man Fu Yuan, which started a Winter Solstice menu last year. This year, the Cantonese restaurant is offering another selection of claypot dishes of nourishing food that is perfect for cold and wet weather.

Among these are Claypot Chicken With Salted Fish & Shiitake Mushroom ($25), Braised Beef Brisket With Radish ($28) and Braised Eel With Garlic, Roasted Pork & Mushroom ($48).

And for dessert, Tang Yuan ($12) is a must, as the round glutinous rice dumplings signify completeness and family reunions.

Where: Man Fu Yuan, Level 2, InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road MRT: Bugis When: Dec 8 - 21, daily Tel: 6825-1008