ROAST PIG AT ISKINA CEBU
Filipino food is not easy to come by here, but if you are hungry for lechon or roast pig, I know a good place.
Iskina Cebu is in a quiet coffee shop in an industrial area in Geylang East Avenue 3. It moved recently from a nearby block and the new premises are too small to roast whole pigs.
However, the Spicy BellyChon set meal ($10) is worth the trek out there. Just thinking about the rolled- up pork belly, burnished and shiny after its time on the rotisserie grill, makes my mouth water. The log of pork is stuffed with an aromatic paste made with lemongrass, chilli and, I think, garlic. This permeates the meat so thoroughly that I sit up after biting into an unadorned piece of white pork. Equally good is the skin, which has a complex flavour full of umami.
The set meal is no frills. Just rice, a heap of pork and crisp skin. Diners can help themselves to vinegar and what tastes like Maggi seasoning. Both add a little something to the pork but, truthfully, I would rather have more of that paste.
The stall will be moving to bigger premises in Buona Vista in April. Check its Facebook page for updates.
WHERE: Iskina Cebu, Block 1015 Geylang East Avenue 3 MRT: Paya Lebar TEL: 9326-2920 OPEN: Noon to 8pm (Tuesday to Saturday) INFO: on.fb.me/1S0sKoA
CURRY NOODLES AT TRULY TEST KITCHEN
Truly Test Kitchen is a grand name for a slightly grungy canteen atop an industrial building in MacPherson, but the food is surprisingly good, given how cheap it is. I have enjoyed Truly's curry rice in Telok Blangah and am curious about its new venture. It has taken over the stalls in the canteen and serves curry rice, noodles, congee, western food and drinks.
"You will not be hungry after this," says the woman at the stall when my noodles (above) are ready. She has a talent for understatement. It is a huge bowl.
For $3.50, customers can choose the kind of noodles they want (yellow noodles, beehoon, kway teow or instant noodles), the soup (curry, assam or ikan bilis) and meat (chicken, pork or beef). Picking kway teow in assam soup with chicken on a hot day is not a wise choice, but it sure is a delicious one. The gravy is tangy, perky and addictive. Along with the rice noodles, generous helpings of minced chicken and napa cabbage fill the bowl, together with an egg.
Another stall sells housemade radish, pumpkin and yam cake ($2 for a generous serving). The steamed savoury cakes are deep-fried upon order. They are virtually greaseless and the crisp exterior is a delight.
WHERE: 153 Kampong Ampat, Jun Jie Industrial Building, 07-05 MRT: Tai Seng TEL: 9008-3285/9452-5328 OPEN: 8am to 3pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
A TASTE OF INDONESIA AT NAUGHTY NURI'S
It is a topsy-turvy kind of night when I try out Naughty Nuri's Singapore at the Capitol. I go for the "wicked ribs and killer martinis" that the Bali import's Facebook page promises, but find them lacklustre.
The Signature Ribs ($18.80 for a half rack, $35.80 for full) require sawing with the inadequate knife to split them apart. Some tugging with teeth will also be needed when eating them. They are nowhere close to the luscious, meat-falling-off-the-bone ribs in Bali. I expect Nuri's Signature Martini ($19.50) to be head-spinning. It is adequate, but won't put hair on your chest.
Still, dinner is not a complete loss. Burnt Squid ($8.80) looks insipid, but the perfectly cooked strips have a smoky flavour and the zingy sambal underneath them perks up my appetite immediately. In Lemak Chilli Party!! ($6.80), the chicken leg is thoroughly infused with the mild turmeric coconut gravy, which is perfect mushed with rice. The Beef Rendang ($9.80, above), made with short ribs, has more gravy than the picture suggests and all of it is aromatic, although I would prefer the meat in bigger chunks.
Will I go back for the ribs? Probably not. But I'll happily order rice and dishes.
WHERE: Naughty Nuri's Singapore, 15 Stamford Road, Capitol Piazza, 01-84 MRT: City Hall TEL: 6384-7966 OPEN: Noon to 11pm daily
CRISPY SNACKS AT CHAI WEE CUTTLEFISH
Even though I go to the food centre at Chinatown Complex fairly often, there is always something new to discover in the maze of food stalls there.
The latest one is Chai Wee Cuttlefish, a 40-year-old business.
I go in search of it after seeing and snacking on its crisp cuttlefish during Chinese New Year at my friends' homes. I seem to be the last to know about it. It takes up two stalls in the food centre, one for production and one for packing.
I discover that aside from cuttlefish, the stall also makes retro biscuits shaped like ears. They are made from scratch and fried in a wok, with a mechanical arm that turns them around. I am offered some warm biscuits fresh from the wok and they are thinner than commercially produced ones and absolutely delicious. Each packet costs $3.50 and I polish off two in two days.
Equally enchanting is the cuttlefish (from $4 for 500g, above). They are what a friend would describe as "atomically crispy". There is sweetness from sugar and maltose and some heat from chilli powder. However, it is the distinct funk of dried cuttlefish that keeps me reaching into the resealable bag.
Call ahead if you have a big order or to find out if the cuttlefish is in stock. It is made once a week, on no fixed day, with a new batch being made when supplies run low.
WHERE: Chai Wee Cuttlefish, Block 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex, 02-59/65 MRT: Outram TEL: 9751-1986 OPEN: 7am to 3pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday INFO: www.chaiwee.com.sg