Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Ding Te Le – A Very Good Shanghainese Staple Food

Signature pan-fried Crispy Pork Soup Buns - Sheng Jian Bao

Ding Te Le at Kovan is an eatery serving Shanghainese cuisines such as Xiao Long Bao (XLB), Shanghainese Noodle and Sheng Jian Bao. Surprisingly, it has been open for almost 2 years. LD and I visited the restaurant frequently when it just opened, but we got so busy we have not returned until recently.

DING TE LE

Signature Steamed Pork & Soup Bun ($5.40) also known as Xiao Long Bao (XLB). One tray comes with 5 pcs of XLB. The skin thin but not translucent, while the pork fillings are juicy and filled with Oink Oink soup that burst when you bit into the XLB. For an easy comparison, the skin is thicker than those sold in DTF, but the meat fillings are almost double in size.

Signature Steamed Pork & Soup Bun - Xiao Long Bao (XLB)

Signature pan-fried Crispy Pork Soup Buns ($5.40) also known as Sheng Jian Bao. This pork bun has a crispy exterior, followed with a chewy internal skin plus thick and juicy pork ball fillings. As it is served directly after pan-fried, it is better to let it cool down slightly before you bit into it. We ordered this for takeaway before and it remains hot even after we let it sit for 30 minutes.

Signature pan-fried Crispy Pork Soup Buns - Sheng Jian Bao

Sheng Jian Bao Fillings

The recent addition of Pan-Fried Meat Dumpling ($5.40) is definitely worth the wait. The skin is crispy, slightly chewy, but enjoyable. The fillings are juicy and generous, definitely, something for a gyoza lover to tried.

Pan-Fried Meat Dumpling

Pan-Fried Meat Dumpling Fillings

Part of the Shanghainese cuisine is their noodles. I personally like their “almost naked” Noodles with Soy Sauce & Scallion Oil ($5.30). Although the noodles that I ordered almost plain, the version in Ding Te Le come with dried prawns. The texture of the noodle is springy and bouncy, while the aromatic scallion plus soya sauce infused it with a delicious flavour. The dried prawns added the OMPH factor to this dish.

Noodles with Soy Sauce & Scallion Oil

Noodles with Soy Sauce & Scallion Oil

For the side dishes, we ordered Marinated Jellyfish with Cucumber ($7.20), Wheat Gluten & Shiitake Mushrooms ($4.80) and Boiled Soybean Sprouts with Oily Bean Curd ($4.80). Frankly, the side dishes did not shine like their main dishes. The jellyfish and beansprouts offer crunchy texture but under seasoned, while the wheat gluten is extremely sweet. A little bit of fine tuning in terms of flavour will add more points to their food.

Marinated Jellyfish with Cucumber 

Wheat Gluten & Shiitake Mushrooms

Boiled Soybean Sprouts with Oily Bean Curd

The décor of the restaurant is simple and bright. More like a modern Chinese eatery. The kitchen is a see-through model, where you can see the Chefs preparing your meal. Service is friendly and efficient.

Menu - Front

Menu - Back

Overall, Ding Te Le offers a very good Shanghainese staple dishes. The noodles, buns and dumplings are as good as those branded restaurants, while the price is relatively cheaper. So if you are near Kovan area, give Ding Te Le a try. Cheers!!

Food: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 6/10
Ambiance: 6.5/10
Budget per Person: $0 - $10, $11 - $25.

DING TE LE 鼎特樂
949 Upper Serangoon Road
Singapore 534713

T: +65 6282 4380
IG: @Dingtele

OH: Daily 11.30 – 14.30; 17.30 – 22.30

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

132 Mee Pok Kway Teow – Good Traditional Mee Pok

Mee Pok $5 Version


Our fishball noodles exploration lead us to an old establishment. 132 Mee Pok Kway Teow, first started its business in 1969, where push carts are still allowed. Currently, the business is run by their second generation and making Marine Terrace its permanent, serving the familiar taste of this traditional fishball noodles.

The Stall

There are 3 type of portions here, $4 / $5 / $6. LD and I decided to go for $5 version, supposed to be medium. Please note that they only served Mee Pok and Kway Teow, just like its name.

True to its traditional heritage, the mee pok served with prawn, fishballs, fish dumplings, minced pork and lean meat. My non-spicy mee pok is generously coated with pork oil and tomato sauce. To be frank, it looks very close to the Jalan Tua Kong fishball noodles.

Mee Pok $5 Version - Non Spicy

The bouncy and springy mee pok bodes well with the tomato sauce and pork oil. Fishballs are bouncy but missing the fish flavour in it. The fish dumplings do not provide any WOW factors, while the deshelled prawn, minced pork and lean meat are cooked nicely.

For the spicy version, the chilli is aromatic with a manageable spiciness level. Although we order the $5 version, the noodle portion is very small. So, if you are a big eater, please ask for extra noodle when you order.

Mee Pok $5 Version - Spicy

The clear soup is surprisingly robust, with a hint of sweetness from the prawns. We ordered extra fishball soup ($5 version), the fishballs and beansprouts content are very generous.

Fishball Soup $5

The coffeeshop where 132 Mee Pok Kway Teow located has limited seating. At the same time, it is competing with a popular nasi lemak stall there. Be patient, as the cooking of the noodle can be very slow.

Overall, it is a good fishball noodle and I think the soup version will be better compared to the dry version. We will visit this place again if we are around the area. However, it is not good enough for us to travel from Serangoon all the way just to have this bowl of noodle. Cheers!

Food: 7.25/10
Value: 6.5/10
Service: 6/10
Ambiance: N/A (Coffeeshop)
Budget per Person: $0 - $10.

132 Mee Pok Kway Teow
Block 59 Marine Terrace
#01-105
Singapore 440059

OH:
Tue – Sun: 07.00 – 16.00
Closed on Monday & 3rd Sunday of each Month

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Benson Salted Duck – Delicious Salted Duck

Salted Duck


Every time we travel to Taipei for work or holiday, without fail LD and I will treat ourselves to a salted goose meal. However, as the AVA still banned the goose in Singapore, salted duck is the next best alternative.

There are only a few stalls in Singapore that sell salted duck, you can probably count it with the fingers in one hand. Benson Salted Duck is always one of the names that come up when you google salted duck in Singapore. Even Singapore “Makan Guru”, KF Seetoh hold this stall in high regards.

The Stall

As it was only two of us dining, we decided to order a 3-person portion for the duck, 2 rice, innards and fish maw soup. Total damage $19.

The duck itself roughly chopped and partly deboned to easy eating. At the first bite, the duck is on the saltier side, especially on the skin. The skin is thick, fatty and springy. Although the meat is dense, it remains succulent as the fats from the skin rendered into the meat.

The Duck

The secret to eating the duck is to squeeze the lime on it. The fusion between the lime juice and the salted created the superb umami flavour and remove the saltiness from the duck. It just transforms the flavour of this dish to another level. The duck is also served with salted vegetables, to balance the dish.

The Chilli

The rice served at Benson is butter rice. It is fragrant and tasty, can easily be mistaken as chicken rice. The rice is al-dente and can easily be eaten on its own without other dishes.

The Rice

For the duck liver is dense yet creamy. It is not as moist your goose liver (foie gras), more like in between goose and chicken liver. The giblets are crunchy, but it is braised in dark soy sauce instead of blanched in salt like the goose version in Taiwan. Not sure what is the reason for this, but I was expecting the giblets in the salted version.

Salted Duck Liver, Braised Duck Giblets, Tofu

The fish maw pig organ soup ($5) is actually a hidden gem that you must try here. They are very generous with their ingredients, especially their fish maw and pig’s liver. The liver is cooked perfectly, making it creamy with a bit of crunch to it. The pork ball is springy and packs of flavour as well.  The clear, pork and duck infused robust broth is just awesome. Yum Yum.

Fish Maw Pig Organ Soup

Fish Maw Pig Organ Soup

Service is efficient. Order at the stall and they will deliver your order to your table. Price is reasonable as well.

Overall, Salted Duck is almost like a rare commodity in Singapore. It is unique, delicious and difficult to find. Benson Salted Duck is definitely a must visit stall. Cheers!!

Food: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Ambiance: N/A (Coffeeshop)
Budget per Person: $0 - $10.

Benson Salted Duck
Blk 168 Toa Payoh Lorong 1
#01-1040
Singapore 310168

T: +65 9781 4042
OH:
Fri – Wed: 10.00 – 15.00
Closed on Thursday


Sunday, 17 February 2019

Kafe Utu – Blending African Flavours with Modern Flair [MEDIA INVITE]

Caribbean Goat Curry

The hipster Keong Saik neighbourhood has welcome a new Café and Lounge, that brings with it the culture of Africa. Kurt Wagner, the owner of Kafe Utu grew up in Kenya and wanted to bring a piece of home to Singapore. Actually, Kurt brought more than a piece, he decorated almost the whole three stories of the building, even the doors, with items homemade and handmade in Kenya.

Welcome to Kafe Utu

For food, Kafe Utu is presenting a combination of east and west African dishes, together with modern café cuisine as well. A few of the recipes originated from Jon, Kurt’s brother whom together owned a few restaurants in Nairobi. Those dishes are Liberian Peanut Chicken Stew ($28), Swahili Fish Curry ($29), Caribbean Goat Curry ($28), and West African Spicy Greens ($28).

Kafe Utu - Level 1

Liberian Peanut Chicken Stew – Sakura Chicken Thigh, Natural Peanut Butter, Smoked Fish and Habanero (served with coconut rice). Surprisingly, the taste feels familiar. To put it in a local context, tasted like a combination of creamy satay sauce with chilli padi and served with basmati nasi lemak. Instead of sweet, it tilts towards savoury version. Yum Yum.

Liberian Peanut Chicken Stew

Swahili Fish Curry – Red Snapper, tamarind, coconut milk, house curry paste & habanero (served with coconut rice). I like the firm texture of the fish fillet, cooked with tangy, assam curry fish-head like flavour, with extra richness from the coconut milk. It is best to eat the fish together with Kafe Utu version of tomato salsa.

Swahili Fish Curry

Caribbean Goat Curry – Fresh goat meat, house curry paste & habanero (served with coconut rice). You can expect a strong gamy flavour from the goat. The curry paste helps to minimise the strong gamy flavour, and the spiciness of this dish is definitely higher compared to the rest of the African dishes.

Caribbean Goat Curry

West African Spicy Greens – Mixed Greens (cassava leaf), chicken thigh, smoked fish & habanero (served with coconut rice). At first, I thought it was a vegetarian dish, however, under those greens come the surprise. It is packed with umami flavour, originated from the smoked fish and chicken thigh. It did well to nicely balance the greens and meat proteins.

West African Spicy Greens

Although the above dishes supposed to come with rice, we had ours with Homemade Chapati ($2 per serving). Aromatic, fragrant and crisp roti, works nicely to scoop the curries.

Homemade Chapati

Complementing the African cuisine are the modern brunch dishes that is comparable with modern café in Singapore and Australia. The spread includes Pulled Pork Breakfast ($24), Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding ($18), Curried Avocado with Raw Garlic and Toast ($16, add egg +$3), Mama’s fresh garden salad ($25), Utu Bowl ($20).

Kafe Utu - Level 2

Pulled Pork Breakfast - Fresh pork shoulder, house hickory smoked BBQ sauce, curried avocado, corn salsa, poached barn egg & potato hash. Amazing flavour on the plate. The pulled pork shoulder is super juicy, the poached egg is perfectly cooked, while the creaminess of the avocado and corn salsa really spiced up the dish. Not to be missed is the perfectly crispy hash brown. Oink Oink.

Pulled Pork Breakfast

Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding representing the healthy brunch cuisine. It has chia seed, quinoa, Greek yoghurt, seasonal fruits (grilled banana, grapefruit and blood orange) topped with roasted almonds and pure maple syrup are just delicious. Who says healthy food can’t taste delicious.

Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding

Curried Avocado with Raw Garlic and Toast with egg. Style like modern breakfast in Australian café, the fresh and creamy avocado on sourdough toast definitely get your tongue wagging. The twist here is red curry paste and raw garlic, which helps to overcome the richness of the avocado together with the bitterness from arugula leaves.

Curried Avocado with Raw Garlic and Toast with egg

Mama’s fresh garden salad. This salad has a nostalgic feel to Kurt, reminding him of the salad that his mum made. A generous dose of baby leaf, fruit tomato, cucumber, avocado, red radish, alfalfa. The earthy flavour definitely stands out here, but I like the twang from the apple cider vinegar dressing.

Mama's Fresh Garden Salad

Utu Bowl - Quinoa, Orange Zest pickled carrots, apple cider pickled cabbage, fresh kale, marinated goat’s cheese, sous vide egg, roasted pumpkin, fresh avocado & spiced pumpkin seeds. What an explosion of healthy flavours in your mouth. Simply put, delicious.

Utu Bowl

For starters, we had Beetroot Burratini ($18), Potato Wedges ($14), Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($15) and Padron Peppers ($14).

Kafe Utu - Level 3

Beetroot Burratini - Picked beetroot, white truffle oil, burratini & fresh basil leaf. I definitely like the combination of beetroot and burratini. However, the white truffle oil definitely does not belong in this dish. Instead, they should just replace the truffle oil with apple cider vinegar dressing or maybe balsamic vinegar.

Beetroot Burratini

Potato Wedges. The wedges are good, crisp externally and moist internally. However, the three homemade dips here are extraordinary. They are mango chili marmalade (Fresh Mango, habanero, onion & coarse black pepper – Spiciness level LOW), Congo Bongo (Fresh Veggies, habanero, natural peanut butter & house spice blend – Spiciness level MEDIUM) and House Chili (Garlic, chili padi, habanero, citrus & butter – Spiciness level MINDBLOWING).

Potato Wedges with the homemade dips

Buttermilk Fried Chicken. This is Kafe Utu version of Popcorn chicken. Bitesize crispiness to be eaten with homemade dips.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with the homemade dips

Pardon Peppers - Pimentos & Citron Sea Salt. For those who live on the edge. Definitely not for me, but a must try for those who like everything and anything spicy. Good Luck!

Pardon Peppers

The desserts line up included Ricotta Hotcakes ($23), Mandazi ($8), Tiramisu ($8) and Canele ($5).

Ricotta Hotcakes. This is definitely one kick-ass hotcakes. It is fluffy and creamy, topped with delicious ice cream, icing sugar and apple syrup. A must order for a pancake lover. Although it is listed as brunch, I think the ice cream made it suitable for brunch or desserts.

Ricotta Hotcakes

Mandazi - Swahili Coast Fried Bread with Coconut Flakes & Cardamom. Interesting flavours, however, the cardamom is too strong for my liking.

Mandazi

Canelé has a dense texture to the pasty due to over caramelisation. I find it needs a bit of liquid to smoothen up the pastry, like Utu soft serve ice cream. In Kafe Utu, it is likely that the soft serve cream is made using House Ubuntu Coffee.

Canele and Tiramisu

Tiramisu - House Ubuntu Espresso, layered with sponge fingers & mascarpone frosting. A signature dessert here that exploit your love for desserts and coffee. It is fully caffeinated and creamy, a perfect dessert to showcase the nutty and chocolaty roast profile from their signature coffee beans.

Not forgetting, the coffee here definitely suits my palate. I like the chocolate and nutty flavour from their coffee beans. I tried Bidi Bado (Abracadabra – Utu Style Mocha, $7). Mocha rimmed with natural peanut butter, pink peppercorns and toasted almond. Almost like the coffee mocktails, filled with a lot of nutty ingredients and sparks from pink peppercorn. Best of all, Kafe Utu uses Hokkaido Milk, known as one of the best milk in Asia for your coffee.

Bidi Bado - Abracadabra

If you are a coffee junkie, this information might interest you. Kafe Utu are using the LaMarzocco Leva coffee, it is also one of the first to be in the F&B market. Their coffee bean is their house blend, “Ubuntu” consisting of Uganda, Mexico and Brazil. Therefore, you can expect a rich buttery texture with hints of cashew nuts & brown sugar, subtle notes of red wine, caramelized apricot acidity and intense dark chocolate finish.

Ubuntu Coffee Bean

Cold Brew, Protein Balls and Hokkaido Milk in the background

I loved the décor of this place. Without a doubt, you will be exposed to culture and visual art of Africa sub-continent. During the day this place is to be known as Kafe Utu, as the sun set, it will turn into Utu Lounge.

Kafe Utu - Level 2

Overall, Kafe Utu has definitely introduced to me a taste of African food. The menu here is curated to present the best of modern brunch cuisine together and the best of African Flavours as well. Not forgetting, their House blend, Ubuntu coffee bean is just amazing. Definitely, a must visit place. Cheers!!

Outdoor Bar - for Utu Lounge

Thank you very much to Kris and Kafe Utu Team for the tasting invitation.

Food: 8/10
Value: 7.75/10
Service: N/A (Tasting Invitation)
Ambiance: 9/10
Budget per Person: $26 - $50; $51 - $80

Kafe Utu
12 Jiak Chuan Road
Singapore 089265

T: +65 6996 3937
IG: @kafeutu
OH:
Tue to Sun: 08.00 – 17.00
Closed on Monday

Utu Lounge
Tue – Thu: 18.00 – 23.00
Fri & Sat: 18.00 – 01.00
Sun: 11.30 – 17.00
Closed on Monday


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