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Drunkards, party queens & chicken curry.

imageA very old friend was in town, well she isn’t actually old as in literally but I know her from my highschool days and we had not seen one another for quite a hand full of years. Revelling in memories we moved from bar to bar and ended up slightly tipsy and in a place I haven’t been since my third year in Singapore, the infamous Spize at River Valley. This place hasn’t changed a single bit and even though mainly from a different generation now, it still attracts the same bunch of weird night owls including hunrgy drunken people like us.

I ordered what I imagined would be the most satisfying dish for this kinda hour, the Mutton Keema Murtabak. When it came to the table I fiercely tore out a piece and inhaled it instantly before even remembering to take a picture. The thing was huge and the dough nice and crisp, at least on the top layer. The inside unfortunately was overly soupy and had only very little meat in it but mashed up with that delicious spicy chicken curry it seemed the perfect thing for that exact moment and just hit the spot.

If you have been to Spize in the earlier hours of the day you know it’s neither a very hip joint nor anything close to a fancy eatery. It’s a simple place that offers a good variety of decent dishes to feed the hungry hordes that gather here because of the long opening hours. Some come just for a break in between clubs, for others it’s their final stop after losing their ability to speak hours ago and some maybe come here just because they don’t have any better place to be or simply to be entertained watching the other lost souls mingling around. Spize, truly an institution for after-drink-suppertime in Singapore.

Spize
409 River Valley Road
Singapore 248307
Tel: +65 6734 9194
http://spize.sg/

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Tandoori-ing it.

imageWe didn’t really know what to do for lunch and so when passing by the newly opened Zaffron Kitchen at Westgate we thought let’s just give it a try.

Yet another shop where you have to order your food via iPads which is still pretty alien to me, especially at places where you partially eat with your hands. I still managed to place our order only using my pinkie and soon after the first plates were coming in. The start made the Fish Tikka, which to my surprise was made of thick and juicy salmon chunks. It tasted great, less flaky than usual but also richer because of the fattier fish. I thought this was a brilliant twist to an old favorite.

imageWe also ordered the Tandoori Malay Chicken Tikka, which was marinated in yogurt and coriander. The coriander didn’t come across very strong but it was still a darn tasty piece of chicken, rustic charred and tender.

imageLast but not least was a first timer for me, some Tandoori Gobi. The cauliflower was super nice, slightly spicy with a bite and together with the fresh and crunchy onions and some drizzled lemon juice a great change up to the meaty dishes.

I undoubtedly enjoyed this place a lot, so much actually that I got on my colleagues nerves, raving about it all day long. It’s setup like a modern gastro bar with simple and elegant interior in a bright and light room. Food was great too, meat, vegetables and bread, everything on spot and service was kind and fast. You’ll see me back here again soon.

Zaffron Kitchen
3 Gateway Drive
#01-13 Westgate
Singapore 608532
Tel: +65 6465 9880
http://www.zaffronkitchen.com/

Murtabak sandwiches on Rangoon.

imageTogether with friends I was attending a climbing/belaying course at Little India and during our lunch break we strolled around looking something that wouldn’t take too long. We ended up at the little ran down hawker center of ‘9-9 Food & Beverages’ because the prata stall on the outer corner caught our eyes.

Since it was a long while since I had one I ordered the ‘Mutton Murtabak‘. It took quite some time to be prepared as I think the uncle first had to fire up the flat grill but when it finally came out on that fake banana leaf plate it looked like perfect triangles from a really big meat sandwich. The dough was pretty thin and was nicely browned and crisped up by the grill. The filling of mutton mince and onions had a delicious fragrant spice to it which I liked a lot and all held up pretty well without falling into pieces and making it less messy to eat. Dipped into the curry gravy rounded everything up nicely and added some more heat to the dish.

Atmosphere here is close to zero, cleanliness still tolerable even though some hungry birds were hanging around the open-face shop, obviously not too impressed by the scarecrow CDs hanging from the ceiling but this all aside, they make some pretty flavorful feel-good-food down here, that’s satisfyingly tasty and comes at an ok price.

9-9 Food & Beverages
95 Rangoon Roadt
1F Trads Buidling
Singapore 218380

Don’t let it go to your head.

imageWe came back here and this time after along while ordered their famous ‘Fish Head Curry‘ again. The head was humongous, mean looking and meaty. It was beautifully soft and tender, especially the cheeks that were freak’n awesome. The gravy was quite liquid, milky, oily and deeply rich with a fantastic heat that sneaked up on us the more we ate. A beautiful dish that probably will never win any beauty contest but who cares, it’s the inner values that matter, right?

The service today was terribly awful though. First our order of ‘Naan‘ was completely forgotten, after another 15 minutes waiting the wrong order showed up and when we had pretty much finished all our other dishes and were fully stuffed finally the right breads came along. As always the staff was very polite and friendly but unfortunately there wasn’t even the slightest attempt to service recovery. And then those weird iPads again, which become even weirder in a restaurant where you usually eat with your hands, I just don’t get it. This was the first time of my many visits here that the service was that screwed up so as long as this doesn’t become a pattern and the food stays delicious I don’t see any reason not to come back.

The Banana Leaf Apolo
54 Race Course Road
Singapore 218564
Tel: +65 6293 8682
http://www.thebananaleafapolo.com/

Seven Hours, Fourteen Dishes.

imageThis was on nearly every Singaporean based foodblog the last couple of weeks and since a friend asked me to go and I had never been on one of those events we went early Saturday to start with an early lunch.

Where to eat first was already decided before we even arrived  – the ‘Porchetta Sandwich‘ from the ‘The People’s Pig’ (USA). This was one good start of the day. Eventhough they only gave out half sandwiches, those were delicious. The suckling pig like roast meat was juicy and pleasantly fatty with a sweet and spicy chili jam on top that gave the whole thing a bit more punch. The bitter flavor of the arugula balanced out the fattiness and spice and to top it off they added a nice piece of crackling which I would have loved to be bigger. The Inside of the ciabatta bun was dipped in the pork jus which gave the sandwich an even meatier taste. So we were off to a good start.

imageWith the pork sandwich half way down we strolled a few stalls further for the ‘Tacos‘ from ‘Tacombi’ (USA). First disappointment was they didn’t offer the ‘Beef Tacos‘ anymore as they apparently didn’t turn out right in this climate. Second disappointment was that the ‘Fish Tacos‘ weren’t really that good. The battered and fried fish was super dry and so was the tortilla they used. Even though the chipotle sauce was quite tasty and the red cabbage was nice and crunchy I felt unsatisfied.

imageNow it was time for some Asian food and so we head for one of the longest queues all the way at the end ‘Phan Rang’ (Vietnam) with their ‘Banh Xeo & Banh Khot‘ combo. ‘Banh Xeo‘ I already had before in Vietnam and these ones were really tasty filled with crunchy sprouts and vegetables and fried crispy on the outside. The ‘Banh Khot‘ were like little egg tarts with prawns and I wished they would’ve been a bit longer on the heat as some of them were quite raw inside tasting like undercooked omelette but overall still not bad but I didn’t envy the chef, assembly-line-frying both dishes without a break.

imageSwitching back to western cuisine we opted for the ‘Soft Shell Crab Burger‘ from ‘Euro Trash Food Cart’ (USA) and yet another dissapointment – they ran out of their beef paddies so we had to go for the plain crab option. This slowly started to seem like a pretty “incomplete” event. Luckily even without the beef paddy this was a pretty awesome burger once I did get over the fact that I ate a whole crab with everything in and outside, I’m weird like that. The crab was crispy and still moist inside and the thousand island like dressing gave it a nice fresh touch. Just the bun was more the sweeter kind which I found slightly odd.

imageFurther on the western trail we arrived at the ‘Swamp Shack’ which sold ‘Shrimps & Grits‘ and their so called ‘Smothered Chicken‘. The shrimps were mega crunchy with a very dry batter which held up pretty well against the gravy and the grits which was like a corn polenta, nice and fluffy yet very filling. The chicken dish had the same gravy with mashed potatoes but I had a hard time finding some meat in there. Good comfort food with the grits as my favorite component.

imageNext up was ‘Soto Tangkar‘ by ‘Pak Haji Diding’ (Indonesia). The soup was quite rich and a tad spicy but the beef didn’t really cut it as it was too chunky and tough for my preference.

imageNow this was one of my highlights of the day, the ‘Seafood Tostada‘ from ‘La Guerrerense’ (Mexico). On their sign they offered two different kinds but our crispy corn tostadas came with everything on it they had in stock. The seafood topping was a cevice of fish, crab, shrimp, tender octopus and delicious sweet scallops that must have just hopped out of the sea. This was then finished off with a big cajun style marinated shrimp big chunks of avocado and a spicy shrimp lemon juice with peanuts. So delicious complex simplicity.

imageUntil now we had stayed away from the Indian stalls as many of them seemed to sell quite filling stuff but this one looked pretty interesting and so we tried the ‘Litti Chokha‘, little charcoal baked buns with a mix of tomatos, potatos and eggplants as well as some mint sauce to go with it. The buns were harder on the outside and crumbling on the inside and soaked up the condiments pretty good. I really liked the vegetarian chokha as it was nicely light and suited the buns well.

imageAs they had both, beef as well as pork jerky we ordered the ‘Hainan Fen‘ from ‘Hai Ya’ next. Apparently a very common dish from the Hainan province in China but I had never heard about it here. Thick eggs noodles were topped with a multitude of ingredients – beef and pork jerky, cilantro, chives, peanuts, sprouts, little shrimp, squid and a soya based gravy. I realy liked it, especially the jerkies and peanuts and even the tiny shrimp weren’t as fishy as I thought. One thing I would have loved to have missed though was the squid which was also some kind of jerky, pretty strong in taste and hard to pick out as it camouflaged itself as noodles.

imageEnough of the filling dishes we went back to India and tried the ‘Chicken 65‘ from ‘Abhishek’. This fried chicken was covered in a wondeful spice mix with a citrusy fragrance and the sweet spiced dipping powder took it all to the next level. That was awesome and I just wished lean chicken breast was more popular in Asia as that would have made this even better.

imageAfter all those hearty dishes it was time to check out the dessert corners of the fairground and so we started with ‘Kue Pancong‘ (Indonesia) that were lightly baked coconut cakes in a special shape topped with white sugar. I love coconut so this was right up my alley, maybe just a little dry.

imageThe next sweet affair again came from India and was offered by a Singaporean stall named ‘Heaven’s Indian Curry’. They offered a dish called ‘Putu Mayam‘ or ‘String Hoppers‘ which was basically freshly pressed and steamed rice noodles topped with bright orange sugar and grated coconut (also available with chicken curry). This was great and tasted quite light cause of the steamed noodles and the dessicated fluffy coconut with a sweet cover of orange caramelized sugar. If you missed the fair their shop is at #01-15 Ghim Hoh Market and Food Center, 20 Ghim Moh Road.

imageBefore washing all that wonderful stuffing down with the one or other Warsteiner we had one last sinful dish, the ‘Sticky Rice Banana‘ from ‘Nam Bo’ (Vietnam). I was lucky queueing up at the right time as the staff on the fairground told me this is by far the most popular stall and waiting can be rather long during peaks. I really like Thai ‘Mango Sticky Rice‘ and thought this might be similar but here they wrapped banana chunks in glutinous rice before grilling it over coales wrapped in bana leaf and finishing it with a thick sweet coconut sauce and sesame seeds. Eventhough I would have wished for more banana this was a lovely closer to an endless seeming feast and so seven hours and fourteen dishes later (I didn’t count the seconds of ‘Porchetta Sandwiches‘) we finally capitulated and didn’t move too much for a while.

I really enjoyed my first food fair experience even with some sold out items and complete stalls being closed like the Danish pork buns which I was so looking forward to. What really pissed me off was that they re-opened on Sunday again. Dang!

http://www.wsfcongress.com

World Streefod Congress 2013
Singapore F1 Pit Building & Paddock
1 Republic Boulevard
Singapore 038975

Dig In…With Your Hands!

imageA good old friend is back in town and he wanted to go back to his favorite Indian place in Singapore ‘The Banana Leaf Apolo’ on Racecourse Road in Little India.

As an appetizer we ordered the ‘Fish Cutlets‘ which had a nice soft, completely unfishy texture with only a hint of fish taste to them that was accompanied by a nice herb & spice mix as well as whole bay leaves. All served cold with a green tangy mint gravy. My favorite, the  ‘Fish Tikka‘, is marinated in a delicious red gravy and was grilled perfectly sealing all the juices within each tikka cube. It tasted very light and fell apart easily so I didn’t really need to chew. Another meat dish we ordered was the ‘Chicken Korma‘ which was heavily rich and creamy. Not being an expert in Indian cooking, I believe that korma is usually cooked with yoghurt and cream but here the gravy also had a light coconut taste to it. It was good but I felt heavier with every bite. Lastly a vegetarian ‘Gobi‘ (cauliflower) dish with onions which was the only really spicy food we had but unfortunately there were rather few gobis and much more onions in it.

Some people might say that the Apolo is a place for tourists but it is still my go to place for Northern Indian food. The choice is huge and the dishes taste great and the only reason I don’t come here more often is that I’m scared I would soon roll my way around.

Use your hands peeps!

http://www.thebananaleafapolo.com/

The Banana Leaf Apolo                                                                                                                                        54 Race Course Road                                                                                                                             Singapore 218564