Melbourne, the food capital of Australia, where multi-cultural cuisines reign supreme. You've arrived at a food blog where good food has no boundaries - be it restaurants, cafes, takeaway joints and any other eating places. Recipes to try out with successes and failures blogged to no shame. The focus is on authentic Asian (Singapore) food found right here in the heart of Melbourne. Just remember, the best dining experience could surprise your tastebuds when you least expect it. Get ready to be surprised on my food journey. Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Singapore Chilli Crab at Home - Family Recipe

So, I've been craving Singapore Chilli Crabs forever. But I don't really know of anywhere in Melbourne that sells the authentic version. And more importantly it has to taste of the right stuff, otherwise Singapore's most famous dish (other than Hainanese Chicken Rice which didn't come from Hainan) is ruined. I remember Lucas on Masterchef Australia serving it up for his first audition in front of the 3 judges. He started getting nervous when they asked him did he make his own sauce and he was perspiring when he admitted he had to add ketchup, otherwise it just doesn't taste right and authentic. He thought he was a dead fish as surely in a foodie-obsessed show like this, everything has to be made from scratch even ketchup. But luckily, of the judges (I think it was Gary who seemed familiar in cooking Asian dishes although Matt was familiar with eating it) said, "you are right, Singapore Chilli Crab is not the same without ketchup, you need it".

So anyway, while my folks were actually on holiday in Singapore, I decided to cook my grandmother's version of Singapore Chilli Crab instead of using Prima-Taste. S has never tasted my non-instant version before, so he was a tiny bit apprehensive, but my grandmother and aunt used to cook it every single weekend for our usual family gatherings that although it's been more than 10 years, I was surprised I can still remember what went into it.

People think the most humane way of killing the crab is to freeze it to death, it's not. Flip the crabs upside down, and open up the triangular "tab" and stab a knife or something sharp right through. This might seem macabre, but it kills instantly. Otherwise place it in the freezer for some 10 minutes and when it's semi-unconscious, do the deed. Now that we got the macabre and awful part out of the way, let's cook crab.

Singapore Chilli Crab Recipe

2 crabs (good sized, at least 1kg each)
2 tsp of cooking oil
2 whole shallots (minced)
1 palm sized ginger (minced or sliced thinly)
1 whole garlic (minced)
3 sprigs of spring onion (chopped 3cm)
1.5 bottles of thick ketchup
2 bottles of Maggi Garlic Chilli Sauce (have to be Maggi only)
1 egg


Remove crabs from shell, separating the claws and make sure they are cracked using a heavy object like a nutcracker. Using palms and firm grip, crack the body in half and proceed to chop each half up into 2 or 3 sections, leaving legs intact. Set aside.

Heat the oil up in a wok, and add ginger and shallots when the oil is hot enough. Make sure the fire is not turned up too high, about medium should be right. Stir fry for about 5 min and add garlic, continue for another 5-10 minutes making sure the wok contents are not burning by constantly stir-frying. Add the crabs and quickly toss the ginger, shallots and garlic over it, coating the crabs. Turn the fire up and keep stir-frying for about 5 min, add spring onions. Lower the heat and cover for about 3 min. When the crabs are reddish in colour, they are almost cooked. Add Maggi Garlic Chilli Sauce and tomato ketchup, turn the heat up and stir fry for about 2 min, pour about half a cup of boiling water. Add egg and simmer for about 3 min when the sauce thickens and it's ready to serve.

You can add fried mantou to soak up the sauce, which is just delicious.

Maggie Chilli Garlic Sauce - Crucial Ingredient

Look shocking but this Deep-Fried Mantou is really soft inside

Apologies for the shoddy presentation, we did it at the spur of the moment due to massive cravings. Not to mention taking the opportunity while my parents are away to cook this dish. Dad has gout, and putting temptation like Singapore Chilli Crabs right in front of him seemed really mean. Not inviting them over to eat when they are here is also mean, so my guess is we won't be cooking this for a while until their next holiday in a couple of months. Mind you when I told Ma today that I'm thinking of doing this as a Christmas dish, she said, "WHAT? Christmas is turkey and ham, not Chilli Crab ok?!"


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some Otah and Satay for Dinner Today

Ok, so I was too lazy to take pics. We had some Otah in stick form (yes the authentic kind we bought from Emma's Yong Tau Foo, not the fish custard as dubbed by the producers in Masterchef Australia when Poh cooked it in the final week. I distinctly heard her calling it Otah-Otah but somehow when the dish was presented it says "fish custard" on the screen which made it sound really gross) with mantou. I know people normally wrap it in white bread, but I just love it with the clam-style mantou. I forgot what the brand is but the mantou was made in Taiwan.

We also had authentic Singapore satay. Yes, the real satay not the kebabs masquerading as satays. S marinated the chicken last night. He bought chicken thighs skin-on and cut them into really thin strips, skin and all and marinated it overnight in Prima Taste Satay seasoning. He also had those ketupat (sp?) all cooked in their rice in a little plastic packet stored in the fridge. Today, he skewered and threw the satays on the skillet and they were moist, juicy and packed with fantastic flavours. The trick I think is the thin slicing of the meat. Of course this was accompanied by the ketupat and sliced continentials cucumber (skin off). The satay sauce was great for the ketupat and cucumber but the satay is so good I find myself eating it on its own without dipping into the condiment.

There is a store that has opened up in the past few months selling frozen satay but in a kebab style. The couple there came from Singapore originally but have been living in Perth for many years before moving to Melbourne recently. Apparently they claimed there is already a satay place in Perth many people frequent which they are trying to emulate. My in-laws are from Perth but they've never heard about it.

I think a lot of our friends and rellies must be shocked to hear we've been cooking at home, seeing as we dine out most of the time or live on takeaways (not crappy stuff mind you!).

"Super" Instant Honey Chrysanthemum Tea

I know, I know, this is the 3rd drink I've been introducing, but I can't help it ok? Some people have a sweet tooth and super lazy, but I promise you won't regret it, I'll be posting one of Singapore's most famous dishes and pretty much impossible to find in Melbourne soon.

Now, it's winter flu in Melbourne as you all know, so it's brrrr-ry cold with everyone passing the winter flu to one another like nobody's business. And please, STOP with all the swine flu scare stories already! Especially people from Singapore, you guys are probably the highest infected per capita in the world so stop acting like we are the ones spreading the H1N1 to your region. Kills me when I heard my grandma won't be coming because of my aunts and uncles telling her we got swine flu here everywhere. I have not seen her in 9 years, and darn ignorant reporting in Singapore is standing in the way. Not to mention it will be her first visit to Australia. This is my maternal gran, my paternal gran has been here and stayed with my parents heaps for months at a time.

Anyway, moving on to the Chrysanthemum Tea. So naturally in this wintry weather and with lots of inconsiderate selfish people spreading the flu around (yeah, the common flu, not the swine flu although a lot of those who caught this and did not stay quarantined are worse than swines and I don't mean to insult pigs mind you), I of course came down with the cold. Even with ducted heating that heats up the rest of the house but the master bedroom, which of course is where I spend most of my time, I was still feeling the no-appetite (almost) sick feeling of brrr-ness with the most hideous puffy eyes (which are already pretty small) and lethargy.

So S made me some instant chrysanthemum hot drink from this metal cannister that he bought in the shops innocently thinking he can't go wrong as it came direct from China. WRONG! The best brand for instant chrysanthemum tea is actually from Singapore. The local brand there called Super makes some nice instant drinks including an oatmeal drink most Singaporeans gurgle in the morning with their Kaya Toast. Ok, this I did not experience first-hand but I was told by rellies, who think I'm so ang moh I probably have bacon, eggs and tea for brekkie. Duh, I don't even eat breakfast. Anyway, my parents are on a visit to Singapore now and Daddy (ok, so I'm in my early 30s but I will call him Daddy not Dad, not Father if I want to, what's it to you?) said he's bought heaps of Super Chrysanthemum for me as well as this instant oat drink so will report when he comes back home to Melbourne.

Back to the Honey Chrysanthemum tea. To be fair, I did give the China brand a fair go and it really wasn't bad at all despite tasting kinda diluted, and yes I did add enough powder. But when S came back with my fave Super Honey Chrysanthemum, deng-deng-deng!

It comes in a satchel in powder form which you stir with hot water or cold if you prefer but hot is the way to go I find. There are 40 satchels in a bag and it costs approx $8+ from any Asian grocery store.

I have a good-sized mug so I tend to add 2 satchels rather than just 1. A tip is not to fill the water up to the brim so as not to dilute it too much. And unless your mug is the same size as mine is, I would suggest about 1 satchel to one average mug.

Now you see what I mean?

Anyway, the powder does melt really quickly when I stirred vigorously in boiling water. The taste is sweet with a honey aftertaste, but not in the sickeningly overly sweet way that you can't taste the flavour. The chrysanthemum accents come through and even when you have that honey aftertaste, you can still taste the slight bitterness of the chrysanthemum. You Aussies would have had this tea at many Yum Chas (Dim Sum for Singaporeans).

Each satchel looks like this:

Nothing beats the feeling of sipping a warm mug of this curled up with my beautiful doggies and an Hermès blankie on the couch (get that passé velour thought out of your head, it's white Gainsville leather in a contemporary style) watching tv or reading Vogue or HB on a winter's day. I like that a nice winter drink does not have to contain the heaviness of dairy or chocolate and yet still provide the nice comfort of a warm trickling sensation down my tum without making me bloated.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 Colour Bubble Tea

So this might look gross to you, but this bubble tea from Bubble Bubble, a drink kiosk located at the basement near Borders in Chadstone Shopping Centre, is really surprisingly good. I recently introduced it to my friend D, who loved it as well but he did have a few comments about it which is similar to my thoughts on the drink too. But first, the visual...

The 3 colour drink is made up of various fruit flavoured konyaku jelly, grass jelly and red bean with coconut milk. It is a modern twist of the traditional Vietnamese 3 colour drink where it comes in a small glass filled with Chendol green jelly, mung bean, grass jelly and red bean. Unless the traditional version where you'll be given a spoon and a thin straw to consume the "drink" (hardly considered a drink when half the glass is filled with shaved ice with minimal amount of coconut milk), the Bubble Bubble version comes with a thick bubble tea straw. The regular is $3.80 and the large, which is pictured here, is $4.50.

As mentioned above, D and I agreed that although it is convenient drinking it all up at one shot with a larger straw and with Bubble Bubble's version containing more liquid, it is very difficult sucking up, for lack of a better word, all the ingredients in every mouthful without ingesting most of the liquids. Unavoidably we are always left with almost half a cup of the jelly and red bean with no coconut milk left. It's a conundrum especially when we are appreciative of their generosity with the ingredients. But on the other hand we are left with no drink and a solid little pile of jelly going to waste without the delicious slurp of the coconut-based drink to accompany it.

Other than that, taste-wise it's fantastic and I would recommend requesting for a little less ice and having the ice completely melted before getting stuck into it. This is my guilty pleasure everytime I head to Chaddy. This drink definitely is worth getting, if not for the sheer amount of ingredients alone, but mostly for the great taste and delightful flavours. Now if only they could somehow blend the jelly a little bit smaller....

Cherry Syrup for Coke

I grew up with the easy availability of Cherry Coke, and addiction does not even begin to describe my insane need to drink a can everyday. Now my mother strictly forbade snacks of any kind during my childhood except on occasions like the Christmas season and CNY. And I promise you, that came around twice a year. BUT that's what a huge Jean-Paul Gaultier school bag is for. Thank goodness she was mostly not home when I walked into the house with my bag rustling inside as the bags of snacks rubbed against each other jostling for space in a bag filled less with books than with the cheesy goodness of Twisties, Nachos, Chilli Tapioca Chips and Calbee Hot n Spicy Potato Chips.

But I digress...

When we moved to Australia, what I missed most was my daily drink of Cherry Coke so I stopped drinking Coke or most sodas (soft drinks), except for Dr Pepper which was sold in Safeway only, for ages until a quite few years ago when Australia introduced Cherry Coke to this country. The taste however must have been modified to suit the Australian market as it was rather different to the American Cherry Coke. But hey, beggars can't be choosers, so I settled for that until the expected demise finally happened to Australia Cherry Coke. Ta-dum-dum. Australians did not take to the taste and I went back quite happily to Dr Pepper (which is similiar to Cherry Coke but not exactly the same). Sadly, Dr Pepper also suffered their eventual demise soon after that.

Anyway, by which time I've already discovered The USA Food Store. They have several American products that were familiar to me in my childhood such as Post cereals (Cranberry Almonds and Banana Nut Crunch are my faves), Combos cheese pretzels, blah blah blah and CHERRY COKE! Yes, direct from America, my Holy Grail drink. Who cares it's $39 for a carton of 24 cans? The addiction was well and truly back! It runs in the family as my dad is totally into Cherry Coke as well, much to my mother's disapproval. Needless to say, I stocked up and have continued doing so for as long as they have been stocking it. To those interested, these guys also stock Cherry 7-up, Dr Pepper, A & W Root Beer and heaps of other yummy sodas.

Despite that, I've always thought if I have my own Cherry Syrup, then I could add a few drops of it to regular Aussie Coke and voila! Cherry Coke at a fraction of the price. However, I just could not manage to find Cherry Syrup in Melbourne even after searching through all the gourmet delis. Finally, a girlfriend from the US heard about my crazy addiction, and was kind enough to send me 3 large bottles of Cherry Syrup, which then resulted in....

The Torani Cherry Syrup (US$7.99) is one of the better brands of Cherry Syrups out there, and I added about a small teaspoon to one can of Coke. Surprisingly it did seem to work quite well and I do like the subtle aftertaste of cherry flavouring in my Coke. I won't say it's the same thing as the actual Cherry Coke from the can, but it does its job. S thinks it reminds him of cough syrup but I don't mind it at all. I do recommend adding ice to your coke if you are using the Torani syrup as the more you add, the sweeter the drink becomes bearing in mind despite the cherry flavouring, it is still a syrup.

Would I continue to buy Cherry Coke from The USA Food Store? Absolutely.