Food Picks: Soupy pencai, Taiwanese mee sua, pineapple balls

Yunnans Prosperity Treasure Hot Pot. PHOTO: YUN NANS

Yun Nans' soupy pencai

Much as I enjoy the Hong Kong-style festive dish pencai with its rich brown gravy, I find the soupy version from Yun Nans restaurant a refreshing change.

The Yunnans Prosperity Treasure Hot Pot replaces the gravy with a lighter broth brewed with old hens and pork trotters as well as carrots to give it a light sweetness and an auspicious golden hue.

Otherwise, you find the same pencai staples of Chinese mushroom, abalone, sea cucumber, prawns, dried scallops and fish maw. But there are also unique items such as wild morels and yellow fungus from Yunnan province in China.

It is served in a traditional black earthen pot heated with charcoal for dining in, but takeaways come in a normal claypot. The dish is available at $288 and $438 for a la carte or as part of set menus.

WHERE Yun Nans at Jewel Changi Airport (tel: 6908-3677), Westgate (tel: 6970-9891) and Nex (tel: 6970-7883)

MRT Changi Airport; Jurong East; Serangoon

WHEN Feb 1 to 28. Takeaway collection on Chinese New Year eve from 11am to 3pm only

Taiwanese mee sua at mini CNY fair

Yi Lai Shuen noodles. PHOTO: YI LAI SHUEN

There is no Chinese New Year fair at Takashimaya Square this year because of social distancing measures. Instead, Takashimaya Department Store has a mini version spread over small areas at basement levels 1 and 2.

It features some of the more popular brands from previous years such as Mdm Ling, Pat Chun and Pryce Tea.

I am delighted to find that Taiwanese mee sua producer Yi Lai Shuen is back.

I bought a pack of the noodles last year and they were the best mee sua I have eaten. The thin strands are not starchy and they stay smooth and slightly firm after cooking.

Each 400g pack costs $20, which is not cheap but is worth the money. The air-dried wheat noodles are apparently sold only on Taiwan's Kinmen island, where they are made.

The vendor at Takashimaya also sells bottled sauces ($20 each) to go with the mee sua, ranging from minced meat or mushrooms to pickled chilli.

WHERE Takashimaya Basement 2, 391A Orchard Road

MRT Orchard

WHEN Until Feb 10, 11am to 8pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 11am to 9.30pm (Fridays and Saturdays)

Unique pineapple tarts

Omage Huat Balls. ST PHOTO: WONG AH YOKE

For something a bit different from the usual pineapple tarts, go for Huat Balls ($28 for 18 pieces) from online food purveyor Omage Foods.

Co-owner Brandon Chin was previously with the now-defunct pie seller SPies And All Things Nice, which came up with amazing pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year four years ago. He has since changed the recipe for the pastry, which is now made entirely with French butter and is very soft.

I actually prefer the old version, which was a rolled pastry that was firmer and more crumbly.

But the balls still work magic. The tart pineapple jam filling has little crunchy bits, and sprinkled on top of each ball are chopped kaffir lime leaves which add a lovely fragrance. The layers of flavours complement one another yet remain sufficiently distinct.

Omage also sells curds and kaya (from $12), which are quite wonderful. Everything is made in small batches with no added food colouring, additives or preservatives.

Spread them on bread or cakes, or enjoy them straight from the jar. Sinful but blissful.

WHERE Omage Foods' website

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