CLEVER SPINS ON MALAY FOOD
When I was last at The Malayan Council, my friend and I were squished in a corner at a tiny table. I loved the juicy beef rib, served with lacy roti kirai.
Fast forward two years and the restaurant in Dunlop Street has spawned another branch, in Bussorah Street. This new place seats 120 diners on two floors, so there is no squishing here. The food is just as good, with a menu that puts clever spins on Malay food.
Our appetiser, Pad Thai Salad ($18), is Thai-inspired, however. Rice vermicelli, salad greens, cashews, prawns, grape tomatoes and peanuts are dressed in a tangy dressing that mimics the flavours of the noodle dish.
Angus Ribeye Masak Merah ($37) is cooked perfectly medium rare and the masak merah sauce is on point - spicy, aromatic and very flavourful. Pick the fragrant tomato rice over the fries, which come with truffle oil unless you tell the staff you don't want it.
Besides, any extra gravy from the steak is so good mixed with the rice.
It was at the Dunlop Street branch where I first had ondeh ondeh cake and was very glad to make its acquaintance. It is available at the Bussorah Street branch too, called Classic Ondeh-Ondeh ($8.50).
But there are two other cakes that deserve shout-outs.
The first is Putu Piring Cake ($9.50), light sponge layers sandwiched with not-too-sweet cream and little boulders of gula melaka. The whole thing is sprinkled with grated coconut. It is love at first bite.
Durian Pengat Cake ($11.50) looks alarming at first - the bright yellow frosting is a lurid shade. But the durian flavour is pungent and true, and the cake layers are just as light.
We end up demolishing it.
WHERE: The Malayan Council, 71 Bussorah Street MRT: Bugis TEL: 9009-7345 OPEN: 11.30am to 11pm daily INFO: www.facebook.com/Themalayacouncil
TERRIFIC THAI DISHES
Some months ago, a colleague wrote about the good pad thai at Kra Pow Thai Street Food in Far East Plaza. Recently, I checked out the restaurant and discovered a raft of other good dishes to try.
The no-frills restaurant is tucked away among shops selling clothes and accessories, but that has not stopped people from forming long queues at meal times.
First things first. Find a table, remember the number. Queue to order. Order dessert and ask for it to be served later. Collect crockery and cutlery on the way back to the table. Wait.
It is worth following the protocol.
Drunkard Noodle Pork ($7.90) is pretty much perfect. Tender and springy flat rice noodles are fried with minced pork. It is such a simple dish, but is filled with wok hei. There is just enough heat from sliced chillies to make the tongue tingle. I detect no alcohol, so am puzzled as to its name. Perhaps it is a good hangover cure.
Equally good is a very simple dish of fried kailan, called Stir Fried Thai Kale ($10.90). This is what happens when vegetables meet a hot wok, garlic and oyster sauce, and the result is glorious.
I am not deterred when the sullen woman taking orders tells me there is a 20-minute wait for Steamed Sea Bass ($39.90) and I am glad I stick to my guns. It is tangy, spicy and appetising.
Less impressive are the clear tomyum soup ($7.90), which lacks the expert balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet that a good tomyum should have; and Grilled Pork Collar ($13.90), which is too chewy and lacklustre.
Mango Sticky Rice ($6.90) does not come topped with the crispy mung beans like in Thailand, but the rice is warm and soft, the mango is sweet and it seems churlish to complain.
WHERE: Kra Pow Thai Street Food, 03-26/27 Far East Plaza MRT: Orchard TEL: 6734-1946 OPEN: 11.30am to 9pm daily
YUMMY BAK CHOR MEE
No matter what the weather is like, a bowl of bak chor mee is always welcome, especially when it is well-made.
The one at Sembawang Hills Food Centre, which has ties to Tai Wah that the stall owner would rather not talk about, is a good example.
The $5 bowl ( there are also $4 and $6 options) comes fully loaded with wontons, pork balls, sliced pork, minced pork, pig liver and the all-important dried sole, which imparts a smoky flavour to the noodles. While these ingredients are good to have, they are not critical to making the noodles great.
Two factors determine success.
The first is the skilful blending of the sauce from soya sauce, chilli, oil and black vinegar. I never have to ask for extra black vinegar because there is enough of it to satisfy.
The second is that the noodles are cooked just long enough to ensure that even the last few strands stay springy.
WHERE: Teochew Minced Meat Noodle, 01-29 Sembawang Hills Food Centre, 590 Upper Thomson Road MRT: Yio Chu Kang OPEN: 6.30am to 2pm, closed on Fridays
HEARTY, UNPRETENTIOUS FOOD
I used to rant about people here tucking into hotpot meals, cassoulet and other winter food in July, when Singapore is at its most sweltering.
Now, I have become one of those people. My only excuse is that the weather is now in transition, so there are a few overcast and wet days in between the blazing hot ones. And it is not July yet.
One recent discovery is Soon Li, a stall in a coffee shop that sells porridge and macaroni in soup. This is hearty, unpretentious food, the kind I can eat again and again. I bypass the congee and order the macaroni ($4, $5 or $6) and find massive comfort in it.
The pork broth is pretty light, but it is also flavourful and not overly seasoned. My $5 bowl has a generous serving of sliced pork and minced pork. There is also pig liver, cooked beautifully so it’s rare in the middle. Later, I find two quail eggs among the pasta. I’d really rather have more liver.
When I ask about opening hours, I am told the stall opens until 2am. Well. What perfect supper food. And it’s usually cool at night, right?
WHERE: Soon Li Whitley Food Centre Pork Porridge Macaroni, 29 Tai Thong Crescent MRT: Potong Pasir OPEN: 11am to 2am, closed on Mondays