Tabemono 5: Japanised Chinese food @ Shinjuku

There are different types of eating places in Japan. Many of the cheaper places that sell noodles and rice are run by Chinese. Tonight was one such shop. Very little English was spoken here and we communicated in Mandarin instead. After pressing a few buttons on the machine, dinner was served.

This was basically fried pork on rice with a lot of shallots on the top. That was my vegetable portion for the day.

The gyoza were probably frozen gyoza that were fried. The skin was hard in different places and they were oily.

It was only after the meal that I felt the effects of too much MSG in the food. It took three cups of tea to rid myself of the effects of the MSG.

Tabemono 4: Soba and yaki things @ Kanazawa

We met a friend for dinner while travelling through Kanazawa. We settled for a soba dinner as we were not very hungry. What I really struggled with was the smoke from people smoking in the restaurant.

Soba with duck and leeks.


Hot soba with prawn tempura on the side

Grilled sardines which I had mistook for shishamo as they looked similar


Grilled sausage, chicken, chicken gizzard and pork.

The unique part of the dinner was grilling the sardines ourselves. Our Japanese friend told us that the fish was probably already half-cooked so the grilling bit was probably more of a novelty.

Tabemono 3: A Light meal @ Senmaida, Ishikawa

Our next destination was Senmaida, Ishikawa, or 1000 terraced rice paddies. This shop was the only place that sold souvenirs, food and drinks. We ordered a cold udon and vanilla and blueberry ice-cream. Both were really good and inexpensive. I was impressed that this place did not overcharge even though they had a monopoly on the food and souvenirs in the area. 

There are about 1004 paddies, managed by hand, by locals and volunteers.

 

Yummilicious cold udon

Vanilla and blueberry ice-cream

Shiroyone Senmaida

Tabemono 2: Toyamawan sushi @ Iwasehama

Toyama is famous for its fresh sea produce. Seafood like the firefly squid (yes, they actually light up like fireflies) and shiroebi, i.e. white or transparent prawns are quite well-known here. They are also well known for the fishes that are found in Toyama Bay. The bay has been likened to a very deep natural fish tank that is also very near the shore. As a result, seafood could be brought to the table very fresh and quickly.

Our plans had to be changed in the last minute and we were looking for a place to visit before we moved on to our next destination. We decided on Iwasehama. One of the things I wanted to do was to have the seafood. We were referred to this place by the Toyama Tourist Information counter since we were in the area.

Squid

Bento set with fried shiroebi on the side. This bento came with pumpkin croquette and cold soba. It was delicious.

Fresh sashimi.

Toyamawan sushi – a set of ten sushi. The crab was delicious. The taste of the other sushi pieces were more subtle. I am very used to eating tuna and salmon in Singapore. The fish here was obviously fresh but the taste was very subtle. It would have been nice to be able to explore a little more but language was a barrier and there was no English menu which limited my options somewhat.

Miso soup with mushroom and tofu.

The restaurant where we had our lunch.

Since Toyama Bay seafood is famous, I should have researched this a little more and be clearer on where I wanted to go for my seafood. To enjoy good and fresh seafood at Toyama, Toyama City itself may have been a better option.

Tabemono 1: Saizeriya @ Toyama City

For the next few days, I’ll be blogging about different places I ate at, while in Japan. This is the first over several days. Tabemono in Japanese means food or literally (eat + things).

Toyama City is actually well-known for its fresh seafood. But my friend was not keen on raw food so we settled for a place that had enough variety and was affordable.

Saizeriya is a famous chain of Japanised Italian food at very affordable prices. Since I liked the chain in Singapore and knowing that it had originated in Japan, we decided to go there for dinner.

The corn soup was delicious. I could have had another serving.

I ordered this without the bacon bits as I did not want it too salty. It wasn’t salty but it was a little too oily.

These were understandably not spicy enough for Singaporeans but good.

The pizza was a thin crust and just nice to share between two people. No complaints here either.

I love eating their focaccia in Singapore and I love them in Japan as well.

All in all, a very satisfying meal for our first night in Japan. I love that one can eat well and affordably in Japan and regardless of where you go, there is a certain standard of food quality because the food is first catered to a predominantly Japanese clientele. There are places that cater to other races like the Chinese or Koreans, for example, but those places tend to be individual shops rather than restaurant chains.

Saizeriya, 38-11, Kamiiino, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0827/

Sliced beef with red wine sauce, wild rice blend and stir-fried vegetables

I tried this earlier but did not share it as there are so many great cooks out there with wonderful recipes. As with most posts that we read, sometimes it’s just for an exchange of ideas, so here is mine.

Beef preparation:

  • 200g of sliced beef (I like the shabu shabu kind as they are easy to cook and not overly heavy for a meal)
  • Crushed ginger juice
  • 1 to 2 tspn brown sugar 
  • 1 tbspn of soy sauce
  • Crushed garlic
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Dried rosemary herbs

Marinate the beef with the ginger, soy sauce, garlic and sugar, pepper and rosemary herb. Set aside for half an hour in the fridge.

Cooking the beef:

  1. Heat up some oil.
  2. Add in the beef. Beef cooks rather quickly.
  3. Remove when cooked.

Red wine sauce preparation:

  1. Add in a small glass of red wine to the pan where you had just cooked the beef.
  2. Add in 1 tspn of sugar.
  3. Add in 1 tbspn of soy sauce.
  4. Simmer for a little while.
  5. Remove from the pan and place in a small bowl. 
  6. Pour over the beef when eating.

Cooking the organic wild rice blend:

  1. Wash 1 cup of wild rice. 
  2. Soak the rice in 1.5 cups of water. 
  3. Leave for 30 minutes.
  4. Rice to water ratio is 1cup : 1.5 cups.

Method:

  1. After soaking for 30 minutes, bring the rice to boil. The moment the water boils, turn the flame down to the smallest flame. Make sure the pot is covered.
  2. Simmer in low heat until the rice is cooked.
  3. At the end, when the rice looks cooked and the water has dried up, put in a few cherry tomatoes to cook them lightly. Tomatoes should only be lightly cooked and not too overcooked. The moment the skin of the tomatoes are wrinkly or broken, that is when they are ready to be eaten. Tomatoes may also be eaten raw but cooking them lightly enhances their antioxidant activity without destroying too much of their vit C through overcooking.

Please note that not all rice blends need soaking. Follow instructions on packet.

Cooking the kailan:

  1. Wash and cut the kailan into pieces. Separate the stem from the leaves. Heat up some oil in a frying pan. Stir-fry the garlic pieces and stems first.
  2. Add in the leaves, a bit of water and sprinkle some sea salt for taste.
  3. Serve when all the vegetables are cooked.

On a plate, serve the beef, vegetables, rice and tomatoes. This serves two. 

The red wine sauce was separated

Red wine sauce

  

Shiok a do do?

Shiok is a colloquial term for something that tastes so good it has a kick in it. It is usually used with food though at times, it can also be used in relation to a good game or an enjoyable event. Shokudo, on the other hand, means dining or cafeteria or eating place. The title is a play on words.

The outlet at Heartland Mall has been opened for about three weeks at the time of posting. We came here for lunch.

Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice from the Taste of Hanami menu

 

Wrong order

The reheated version. Huh?

  

The correct order


I had their lunch special which I was quite happy with. There was a mix up in their orders which I did not notice at first. We were served tako balls which we clearly did not order and we told them so. Then I was mistakenly served cappucino which I did not realise was a mistake until I noticed that the coffee was rather cold. I thought it was a little odd that the milk in the coffee was barely warm. I mentioned this to a staff who proceeded to warm up the remainder and served it back to me again! By now I was quite shocked. For a cup of coffee that cost $5.80, I thought the least they could do was to replace it. So I asked them for a new cup, explaining to them that milk that goes into cafe latte has to be a certain temperature but not boiling hot. It turned out the tip was not necessary and the result was my corrected original order. It was then that I realised that I had been given the wrong order before. But they made good and that was important. 

My friend had the Mt Fuji Curry Omu Rice and it was not a good choice. The patty was of poor quality and too salty. The curry was also too oily. She didn’t finish her meal. 

The Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice was clearly the better value and tasting of the two. Oishikatta deshita! I’ll be back for that.

Being as new as it was, the cafe was still trying to cope with its running during the busy times. There was a nice, smiley uncle who enthusiastically refilled the tea and he made everyone feel welcomed – never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.

Shokudo, #02-00, Heartland Mall, 205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205.

Chempedak dessert

It’s the name of a fruit. It’s smaller than nangka which is also known as jackfruit, stronger tasting and more yellow. If you are South East Asian and do not mind durian, you will love chempedak. It is also known as breadnut. I have no idea why that is its English name though. This link shows you the actual fruit. I don’t agree with his description of the smell but he is a foreigner, after all. His pronunciation is also a little off but that is besides the point. 

Anyway, chempedak and avocado, wrapped and fried, and served with vanilla ice-cream is now my favourite dessert! That is the best pungent dessert this side of the earth! The bland but rich texture of the avocado complemented the sweetness of the chempedak very nicely. There was another option of banana and chempedak which would have made it too sweet. This one was just perfect.

 Hong Kong Dessert, #01-02, Jubilee Square, 61 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8. Tel: 6457 1203.

When many is good

If anyone wants to go to a place where there is a wide range of food, this is the place. I went for dinner with Caucasian friends who were just passing through Singapore. I needed the restaurant to have the following options available as I was not sure what they would enjoy.

– Asian food in case the wife wanted it

– salads in case the daughter wanted it

 – a steak in case the husband wanted it

We eventually settled for a pizza which had pharma ham and cheese on one side and just cheese on the other. We decided not to eat Asian food and settled for a fruit salad instead. So everyone was happy in the end. I think this was the founder’s philosophy as well — have a wide enough variety of food so that there is sufficient choices for different customers’ tastebuds. At a time when many restaurants have cut back on their menu, choosing instead to focus on their bestsellers, I was glad that this was not Lenas’ philosophy. The restaurant was an excellent idea for a night like tonight where different people wanted different food and there were enough choices for all of us to agree on one. Whew! Thank you, Lenas! And the food was reasonably priced. These two factors and alcoholic drinks have enabled them to survive in the highly competitive F & B industry.

Fruit Salad

 

Thin crust pizza with pharma ham and four cheese

 
Lenas,  Hougang Mall, 90 Hougang Ave 10 #02- 20/22. Tel: 63861929.


Timms’ turn… again

I actually went to another place for brunch first but they did not seem interested in my business. That was not the first time that their service left much to be desired. They weren’t even aware that customers were looking at them, waiting to be served. And that was the manager playing with his phone. So I went and got the menu myself. Then a staff came and told me that they had already run out of special coffees. And it was not even lunch yet.

I left and decided to go elsewhere. That was when I saw Robert, again.

The difference in the service could not be greater. Immediate attention, orders placed exactly as requested, quick service. The only drawback – no credit card discount. This is my fourth time patronising them and I have only been able to get a discount once. Oh well.

I ordered a chicken salad, with dressing on the side. Perfect. I like my salads, undressed, leaving me the option of how much dressing to add. Besides, I don’t really like mayo. I didn’t mind the  other salty dressing. What I really liked were the greens and the few small pieces of mango. The chicken could have been more thinly sliced though. But this has more to do with presentation than taste.


Next was the flat white coffee – with more milk. Again, perfect. I was about to add sugar until I tasted the coffee. The extra bit of milk almost made it sweet. So I put back the sugar. Yumz.


Good on ya, mate!

For earlier visits to Timms, read here and here.

The House of Robert Timms, 501 Orchard Road, #01-02/03 Singapore 238880. Tel: 6735 9201.