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Maybe stick to the fish

imageI had friends in town who I met back in 2008 during my first weeks here in Asia and since they are now living in Europe they were craving for some Japanese and so we met at ‘New Garo’ up in Chun Tin Road. As I already had an excessive Japanese dinner one night before I didn’t really feel like anything fish but spotted their cold ‘Hyashi Chuka Ramen‘ on the menu and made my pick.

This ramen was covered with spinach, chashu, a bit to sweet tamago (sweet omelette), fish cake, pickled ginger, cucumber and bamboo shoots and sesame seeds which made it all look very pretty and colorful. It tastes quite refreshing, the noodles had a nice bite and all the different textures of the ingredients made it quite entertaining too eat. The sauce was a light soy and vinegar vinaigrette that I kinda liked it and even that overall this wasn’t really an arousing experience it nevertheless was refreshing and tasty.

I came to ‘New Garo’ a number of times before and like it as a place for decent sushi to reasonable prices so I will surely come back, not neccessarily for the ramen though.

New Garo Japanese Restaurant
6A Chun Tin Road
Singapore 599593
Tel: +65 6467 8905

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Spare the Calories

imageI was running some last minute errands before my Germany trip and came by Ngee Ann City just about when I felt a slight appetite growing in me. I didn’t feel too hungry so I wanted to get a small bowl of cold udon at this shop my friend recommended in the basement just to realize it’s a branch of ‘Tsuru-koshi‘ which I already visit too frequently during my lunch hours. So a bit more hungry now I recognized a small ramen shop in the corner that offered ‘Tantanmen‘ and even that I wasn’t in the mood for something that heavy I still queued up.

They had a tantanmen special with a super spicy version but since I had a twelve hour flight in front of me I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risk and therefore chose the standard one which the very friendly waiter reckoned should be spicy enough. When my bowl arrived it looked rather ordinary and I was not quite sure if I made the right choice. I tried a few slurps from the bright orange broth which was not particularly bad but didn’t have much of a sesame taste and hardly any heat kicked in. I appreciated the huge amount of sprouts and the eggs were nicely waxy. The chashu was alright but had an unpleasant aftertaste, the bamboo shoots looked terribly thick and brown that I didn’t touch them at all and the noodles were overcooked and way too soft.

It was worth a try but I am not really considering coming back here anytime soon. Not alone because of the average taste but also because of the above average price of S$20 per large bowl which is much more than most of my favorite ramen shops are charging.

Baikohken Ramen Restaurant
391A Orchard Road
#B2-01-04 Takashimaya Food Court
Ngee Ann City
Singapore 238873
Tel: +65 6235 3483

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

The Ten Levels of Fury!

imageToday two of my colleagues invited me to join them for lunch around the corner from the office in Shinagawa Seaside. In the foodcourt at the Jusco supermarket there is a small cantine like noodle shop with some really decent ‘Tantanmen‘ – ‘Tantanmen Tenshin’ – which I had tried some years back when I was here the last time.

This shop has ten levels of spiciness for their noodles and as my colleagues warned me upfront and they took levels one and two, I didn’t dare going any further than level three which turned out to be a very smart move. Picking up my bowl from the counter I realized that it had the most drops of red chili oil swimming on the surface compared to the ones from my colleagues. Now this was nice. The creamy sesame broth was rich and thick and strong in taste and the heat, even that not overwhelmingly painful, instantly squeezed out some sweat drops from my forehead. The noodles were good but not the homemade kind and surprisingly bright yellow in color. The minced pork gave it all a nice meaty touch and some chinese greens added extra layer of texture and something cooling to the otherwise heaty pot. After I had finished everything I wondered if I should have taken it up a notch on the spice scale but my stomach proved me different by growling for the rest of the day.

imageThis is a simply shop I wish I had also close to my workplace but maybe it’s better that way as I probably would have it to often which either would drive my weighing scale through the roof or leave me with holes in my stomach whilst trying to push the levels up. BURN.

Tantanmen Tenshin        
Foodcourt Jusco Shinagawa Seaside
4-12-5Higashishinagawa
Shinagawa                        
Tokyo 140-0002                
Japan

Crazy or Super Crazy?

imageMy first week in Japan was nearly over and my friend was so nice to take me ‘Tantanmen’ hunting on Friday. I found this place in Kanda on the internet and as it looked great and promised to be super spicy we head for Ogawamachi station directly after work. I have never been in this area before and here were heaps of little restaurants found around every tiny corner. After taking a couple of wrong turns we eventually found ‘La-Show-Han’ by the red sun logo on the door which I recognized from a blog. This place has only few bar seats and first we were the only ones and so had the chance to have a little chat with the master who was actually hilarious and very kind.

We were only two people but not knowing when we would return to this place, we pulled three different bowls and a couple of beers from the vending machine outside. My friend ordered the ‘Spicy Green Hot Pepper‘ version but the master recommended her an off menu option which he called ‘Mala Tantanmen‘ and described as a Sichuan/Thai fusion dish as it used Sichuan pepper, bird’s eye chilis and sesame. This one was my favorite, the sesame broth was nicely thick and the heat was moderate enough to still taste the ingredients and enjoy it. Also the bird’s eye chilis kicked in in a very unfamiliar way. Great stuff.

1368784328268The second bowl was the ‘Sesame‘ version which was delicious. This one wasn’t spicy at all and tasted lovely and obviously like sesame with a nutty finish coming from crushed peanuts sprinkled on top. I also liked the sort of sprouts topping every dish seem to have and that were giving it a cool and fresh twist. Okada san said that he uses the same noodles as his favorite ramen shop does and they were wider than usual and cooked until nicely chewy and springy.

1368785426208-origLast but not least Okada san brought us the ‘Premium Sichuan Style‘ Tantanmen which was the initial reason to come here. He checked twice if we really wanted to have this particular one and noted at a sign mentioning that this was only meant for “crazy people”. He left out the spicy extras at first, for us to try the milder taste first before turning it into the full version. It was more of a dry type and tasted great. The soup at the bottom was much thicker than in the bowls before, lovely creamy and rich and after some slurps we handed the bowl back to the master and he worked his magic. He sprinkled a lot of ground Sichuan pepper on the noodles and finished with a generous drizzle of homemade Sichuan infused vegetable oil. The noodles now were covered under a generous layer of cracked red pepper color and looked much more intimidating than before/. I tried to be courageous and started with a big slurp of noodles. Oh, they were dangerous. The pepper instantly numbed my outer mouth, inner mouth including tongue and everything else that was touched by the noodles. It all became cold and hot at the same time, made me sweat on my head and made my ice water taste very odd. It all tasted brilliant though and very different to every Tantanmen I ever had before but I might just have overestimated my tolerance for spice in this case. There is also a ‘Super Crazy‘ version which I politely skipped after tasting this bad boy.

La-Show-Han Front (1 of 1)This was a great find and even that i had to realize that apparently I am not “super crazy” I absolutely loved it here. Besides the great and eye opening super spicy food we really felt very welcome here and it was nice talking with the master who took his time explaining and answering all of our questions. When I will be back in town I’ll make sure to pay this place another visit to try some of their other options working on my craziness.

http://lashowhan.com/

La-Show-Han 辣椒漢
Kanda Nishikicho 1-4-8
Chioda-ku
Tokyo 101-0054
Japan