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Jiao Zi

It’s been a very lao time.

imageIt felt like a hundred years that I had been to ‘Lao Beijing’ but tonight I wanted to refresh my memory big time and went berserk on their menu. I spotted ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ (小笼汤包) so it came naturally to start with those favourite little steamers. Not being the prettiest of its’ kind, they were quite nice, had thin skin and a generous slurp of soup in ’em but neither the meat nor the broth had a too distinguished flavour.

imageDumpling time wasn’t over just yet so we had a round of awesome ‘Pork & Cabbage Jiao Zi‘ (boiled). The cool thing here was the cabbage, not very common and tasted great together with the fine meat mass. Aside another regular on my orders, some crunchy and slightly spicy, delicious garlic cucumbers.

imageOver to the noodles some ‘Beijing Style Zhang Jian Mian‘ (老北京炸酱面) came our way. The noodles were soft and and thin and the whole thing tasted nice refreshing with all those chopped scallions but wasn’t really like a bean sauce but more like a lightish bolognese, nonetheless good.

imageAlso the ‘Dan Dan Mian‘ was more an interpretation of the bowl I like so much. Nearly a clear broth with some minced meat and chives taking a swim in it. No sesame, no peanuts, no gooey creaminess made this not really extra special but still tasty enough to give it a like.

Even though the food was not sweeping me off my feet, it was still tasteful and delicious maybe with a slight setback caused by their  modifications on my old time favourites. It’s quite a busy and bustling place at peak hours in a bit of a warmer setting than the usual dim sum restaurants and surely has some decent dishes to offer. I might come back to try their high tea buffet as even though I’m not a big fan of such, ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ free flow doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Lao Beijing 老北京食堂
238 Thomson Road
#02-11/12 Velocity@Novena Square
Singapore 307683
Tel: +65 6358 4466
http://www.laobeijing.com.sg/

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Hey Dude, where’s my Dumpling Nazi?

imageI read and heard so much about ‘Jing Hua’ a.k.a. ‘The Dumpling Nazi’ and so a friend and I paid the place with the apparently so grumpy guy a visit. To my surprise the shop seemed to be freshly renovated and really didn’t have anything from an old traditional eating house anymore.  My biggest disappointment though was the missing impolite uncle scolding us or something, which I was so looking forward to.

The disappointment continued with the food. I’m a huge fool for ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ (小笼汤包) but I simply couldn’t eat those, thick doughy skin with overly greasy and lardy soup inside. We actually left most of it back in the basket and rather ate the crispy ‘Guo Tie‘ (锅贴) and boiled ‘Jiao Zi‘ (饺子) which were actually quite tasty, pimped with a generous portion of scallions.

imageWe knew we over-ordered heavily but since it was something unusual we also got what they called ‘Chinese Pizza‘ (三鲜盒子), which was pretty much a crispy curry puff-like pastry filled with your usual dumpling mix – pork meat and scallions. This tasted quite great and was really something else.

imageMy favourite however was the ‘Zha Jiang Mian’ (ひき肉みそのせ麺 ) which besides the fact that it could’ve used another scoop of the thick soy bean sauce came pretty close to awesome. Meaty, sweetish, great textures and brilliant unusually thick noodles, that even that I was already stuffed, I wished my bowl would’ve been was bigger.

If it wasn’t for the noodles, I wouldn’t bother coming back here to this formerly traditional place that obviously got transformed into a faceless eatery with oversized pictures of their signature dishes hanging on the walls like otherwise only a big fast food franchise would put up. But I’m hooked now and just have to learn how to ignore that people here are so polite.

Jing Hua Restaurant at Qun Zhong Eating House 京华小吃
21 Neil Road
Singapore 088814
Tel: +65 6221 3060
http://www.jinghua.sg/

Taiwanese lunch at Jem.

imageWe didn’t feel like our usual lunch options today and then one colleague suggested ‘Din Tai Fung’, another colleague really liked the idea and I haven’t been there for over a year plus so it became our choice for the day. They were a bit understaffed so it took us some time to get seated even that half the restaurant was empty.

Finally in we started of with the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ which they are obviously famous for. Their skin was nicely thin but strong enough not to break when picking them out of the basket but the broth and meat seemed a bit watery and bland in taste. I’d still prefer the steamed buns from ‘Crystal Jade‘, ‘Hong Guo‘ or ‘Si Chuan Dou Hua‘.

imageI had upset my stomach with something so I skipped the new ‘Spicy Noodles‘ on the menu and went with the ‘Braised Brisket Beef Noodles‘ instead. It was actually quite nice, the broth was rich and beefy and deep dark in color and tasted a bit like goulash with a hint of tomato. When I slurped the last sips from the bowl I particularly enjoyed the roasted garlic and ginger bits that were like refreshing but more hearty pop rocks. The beef was alright and tender but unfortunately pretty fatty too but the letdown were actually the noodles that tasted okay but were downright overcooked.

It’s a chain restaurant so it doesn’t really impress with its’ excess of flair and atmosphere and unfortunately this time I was also rather disappointed with the food. In Germany I would be endlessly happy to have a place like this but here the standards are just on another level.

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
50 Jurong Gateway Road
#02-07 Jem
Singapore 608549
Tel: +65 6694 1161
http://www.dintaifung.com.sg/

Beef Noodles? Yes. The Real Deal? Uhm…

imageWe were actually planning on a sandwich lunch but one of my colleagues wasn’t feeling to brilliant and thought a hot noodle soup would do the trick and so we ended up going to ‘Liu San’, a Taiwanese restaurant at Bukit Timah Plaza I wanted to check out for some time now.

We ordered some ‘Boiled and Panfried Dumplings‘ for starters which were both okay but not too special also with a much higher cabbage ratio compared to the meat. The panfried version reminded me of gyoza and nicely had a very thin skin. The main reason we came here though were the ‘Taiwanese Beef Noodles‘, a dish I’m nearly as particular about as ramen. This was actually quite surprising, the broth was deep dark and had the typical beefy sweet & sourness with a hint of heat as advertised as the spicy version. My colleague mentioned there was too much soya sauce in it but I thought that it wasn’t too bad for a non-Taiwanese version, but then it has been some time since I had the real deal. I particularly liked the carrots that were not overcooked and fitted nicely in with the other ingredients. The noodles seemed to be the supermarket kind, a bit too floury in taste and texture that left the usual chewiness missing. Last but not least the meat was thinly sliced with a lot of fat which at least was tender enough. I knew I probably wouldn’t get the nice big beef chunks like in Taipei but would have loved them to be just a little bit thicker.

Overall this was an ok choice for lunch, the broth was pretty good actually but beef and noodles could use some pimping. I would say not a bad bowl of noodles even though far from the stuff you get in Taiwan but I guess that’s a useless comment as that is pretty much always the case. Probably coming back but mainly to try their ‘Rice With Simmered Pork‘ or the ‘Minced Pork Noodle‘.

Liu San 劉三閣
1 Jalan Anak Bukit
#01-09 Bukit Timah
Singapore 588996
Tel: +65 6463 1833

Shanghainese Soul Food

imageI went hiking on the “Dragon’s Back” with a friend from Australia who accidentally was in town at the same time and without breakfast and real lunch I was super hungry when it got to dinner time. We all met up at the ‘Double Happiness Cafe’ in Soho for some Shanghainese fair which was one of the places my other friend wanted to bring me the night before to try out their ‘Dan Dan Noodles‘.

And so this was one of the first dishes we ordered. The bowl arrived piping hot which unfortunately cooked the noodles a little too soft and caused me burning myself on several occasions. There was a very strong peanutty flavor to the broth emphasized by the whole peanuts swimming around in there which also added some crunchy texture. The soup was creamy but not unpleasantly thick or heavy. The meat was nice and juicy with quite a few fatty chunks that I left aside. Nevertheless a lovely dish.

imagePretending to be healthy we ordered the crunchy and refreshing ‘Spicy Garlic Cucumber‘ with vinegar and the ‘Sichuan Style Vegetables‘ that consisted of cabbage, onions, peppers and broccoli and had a nice numbing punch.

imageI hardly leave any Chinese restaurant without having some dumplings if they have some so we ordered their ‘Steamed & Panfried Shanghainese Jiao Zi‘. They had a tasty skin which was a bit thicker and instead of chives they used preserved vegetables that gave the dumplings a unique taste I never had before.

imageMy hiking friend said she had to have the ‘Stir Fried Glutinous Rice Cake‘ which I never even heard of before so I was more than up for it. When it arrived it reminded me of the haloumi from the night before. The slices of panfried rice cake had a nice charred flavor and were much harder than I anticipated, a bit similar to squid. With the sweet savory glaze and the veggies this really worked well together and creatively used something as basic and plain as rice and turned it into a tasty, tasty dish.

imageWe were slowly filling up but had the ‘Roasted Pork Shanks with Herbs‘ left to tackle. The meat was quite tough and stuck to the bone but the spice rub tasted interestingly great with a strong hint of cinnamon.

I liked this place already for it’s name but also for the Chinese interior, the free welcome walnuts and above all the great food. I’m a huge fan of ‘Dan Dan Mian‘ and this sure is one I wouldn’t mind having again. Double happiness for everyone.

Double Happiness Cafe
48 Stauton Street
Soho, Central
Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Tel: +852 2549 1862

The La-Mian-Quest continues!

imageAfter not making it down to ‘Silk Road’ at the Amara Hotel during my friend’s visit I needed to come here and try their ‘Dan Dan Mian‘ myself. A workmate joined me so we could order a little bit more dishes to taste.

As it was the focus of my mission today I started up with the ‘Sichuan Dan Dan Mian‘ which oddly arrived in a flat pasta dish but nevertheless looked very promising. There was heapz of minced pork sprinkled all over and the gravy looked thick and dark red. Taste wise I must say it was all in all good but not too special, slightly spicy and with sesame of course. The noodles tough were too soft for me and I reckon not the home made kind which became more certain as other noodles on the menu were particularly declared as “handmade”.

imageAside we ordered the ‘Cucumber in Garlic Sauce‘ which I loved. The portion was huge and the cucumbers were the tasty small kind with a lovely crunch to them. All that covered in a nice garlicy chili sauce that was refreshing in between all the warm and meaty dishes. We also ordered the ‘Minced Meat Dumplings‘ and also the spicy version. Both tasted okay but I preferred the normal ones as the Sichuan version wasn’t spicy at all and a bit coldish.

image At last we had their special ‘Shenyang Snowflake Dumplings‘ that were eight tasty meat and chive dumplings united through a thin layer of crispy dough similar to a very flat pancake. Even that the taste wasn’t really knocking me off my feet, eating dumplings like that was something new that I haven’t seen before, which I appreciated.

The food here was good but since recently I have been to places like ‘Si Chuan‘ which offer really yummy ‘Dan Dan Mian’ and I wasn’t a too big fan of the atmosphere here I might return to the Amara rather to check out one of the many other restaurants here.

http://www.silkroadrestaurants.com/

Silk Road Restaurant                                                                                                                                          165 Tanjong Pagar Road                                                                                                                                 Level 2 Amara Singapore                                                                                                                        Singapore 088539

Who Needs 18 Folds?

imageFinally Chinatown Complex Food Center reopened after a long break for renovation and since the last group of friends visiting Singapore were starving I brought them here hoping my favorite stall for ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ – ‘Hong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao’ or ‘China La Mian Steamed Buns’ was still there. And “Thank God” it was. The Chinese couple who ran it for the last couple of years seemed to have teamed up with another couple recently and today the two husband were on shift.

We ordered the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ (XLB), the ‘Jiao Zi‘ and the ‘Spicy Sichuan Wonton‘. The XLB here maybe don’t have eighteen folds but to my opinion they are still the best hawker version available in Singapore. The dough was very thin so we could make out the soup level inside and the soup itself had a delicious and rich pork taste. Note to myself, “don’t be so greedy otherwise you will burn yourself every time again”, which I do, every time. I especially liked the meat filling as it tasted great, was smaller portioned and minced very fine which also pleased my preference for non-chunky texture. That all together with the smiling faces of the owners and a low price of five dollars for ten XLB makes me come back here again and again. The ‘Jiao Zi‘ were based on the same meat mixture but enhanced with chopped up chives which worked fantastically together. The dough was fried crisp on one side and nicely chewy on the other. The wonton had tiny pork meat pockets with a lot of noodle-like flattened chewy dough around that was soaked in a tangy chili oil. Delicious.

Even that I loved the dumplings as always I was left with a bit of emptiness as it was a Sunday on which they don’t offer their ‘Spicy Sichuan Noodle La Mian‘ but since I come by here quiet frequently I knew I won’t have to wait too long to taste them again.

Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao                                                                                                                   335 Smith Street                                                                                                                                               #02-135 Chinatown Complex Food Center                                                                                       Singapore 050335