Monday, August 31, 2009

Marina Mandarin Peach Blossom - A La Carte Dim Sum Buffet

Earlier on, I took one week leave from work to finish up several personal errands. During which, I took my parents and brothers out to an a-la carte Dim Sum Buffet lunch at Marina Mandarin Hotel’s Peach Blossom.

I was quite excited about the occasion as it was the first time that the whole family could take time out from whatever that we needed to do for a proper sit-down lunch together.

I had first read about Marina Mandarin Peach Blossom’s a la carte Dim Sum Buffet from one of UOB’s credit card brochure. I was quite surprise that a five start hotel Dim Sum buffet only charges $18.80 ++ per pax. I decided to try it out to see if it was really that worthwhile.

I did some research before we went. Read online that for that special lunch time price, Peach Blossom only offered 20 items for the ala carte buffet.

Dim Sum Trinity:

What is Yam Cha 饮茶 (Cantonese: Tea) without Dim Sum Trinity - Har Gao 虾饺, Siew Mai 烧卖 and Cha Siew Bao 叉烧包? So, how is their Dim Sum Trinity?

Steamed Pork Dumpling with Mushroom

I am glad that the steamed dim sum came piping hot. I had thought that their Siew Mai size is a bit dainty compared to Har Gao. It could do with a slight “upsize” so that it would looked more equal. When bite into it, it had a slightly Q texture and one could taste the fish/prawn paste in it which enriched the common Siew Mai with a rich seafood flavour. However, I thought Siew Mai’s highlight should be the pork flavour and texture, but I could hardly taste it.

In fact, many of their dim sum dumplings used too much of “prawn meat paste” that all of them had a similar seafood taste. Perhaps, they should vary the proportion of the prawn meat to give each of the dim sum a different taste and characteristic.

Steamed Prawn Dumpling

The Har Gao came in a good size. The prawn meat filling was quite fresh and springy. I especially like that the chef sprinkled some chopped seaweed flavoured herb onto the dumplings which gave it an additional edge.

Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

Perfectly cooked Cha Siew Bao must “smile”, or rather must have cracks on the dough which allowed one to peek-a-boo at the bits of the amber red pork fillings. In case one does not have this before, the red pork filling is actually Cha Siew. It should have a slightly sweet smoky taste. Their Cha Siew Bao not bad.

Steamed Dim Sum:

Steamed Pork Dumpling with Chinese Chives, Mushroom and Prawn Paste

Apart from the distinct chives flavour, this interesting green-coloured dumpling had the texture and taste is similar with the Siew Mai. Nothing much, really.
Steamed Seafood Roll in BBQ sauce

This dim sum dish is essentially bean curb skin and seaweed wrapped around crabsticks, with a bit of prawn paste and enoki mushroom. It was drizzled and steamed with a bit of salty sauce which I realised now that it was BBQ sauce. Don’t understand what this dish is about.

Steamed Lotus Leaf Bun with Roasted Pork

When it was served, I could not recognise the dish. It was huge. I guessed the chef decided to get creative with this traditional bun dish.

Instead of braised meat cooked in dark soy sauce, the chef used roasted pork which are stewed in bean sauce. While I applause for this creativity, but I think the portion scared us a bit and the meat is too fattening (in my opinion) for our liking.

Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce, Minced Garlic and Diced Chilli

This is another traditional must-have when eating dim sum. I remembered when ordered this at other places, the spare ribs still got meaty bits. For Peach Blossom’s version, they are all bones. I can hardly find meats on it. Not good.
Chicken Feet in Szechuan Spicy Sauce

Unlike the spare ribs, this traditional must-have is properly executed. The chicken feet are braised and steamed to perfection. It is so tender that one hardly need to bite and the meat would fall off the bones naturally.

Steamed Pumpkin Cake with Dried Shrimps and Mushroom

I personally quite like this dish. It is a cross between Chwee Kueh and Wah Kueh. The steamed pumpkin cake has a delicate texture which is almost like a bean curb. The soy-sauce tasted like those Hong Kong Rice Roll’s sauce which has a hint of sweetness to it. There is also dried carrot bits (chay poh) on it.
Fried Carrot Cake with Chinese Sausage with X.O Chilli Sauce

I was quite surprise when seeing this as they are not quite what I expected. It has a very fragrant aroma, but it was a tad too salty.

Dumpling Soup with Choy Sum

I have to be blunt here. This dumpling soup is uncalled for. There is nothing extraordinary about the dumpling. It is more like a wonton (without prawn kind) in fact. It tasted so common that in comparison, the aunty selling Wonton noodles at the coffeeshop near my place make a better wares than them.

Soup of the Day:
Watercress Soup
Another salty soup without much edge. Can be missed.


Fish Fillet Porridge

This porridge is typical Cantonese style. The rice grains has been cooked till non-existence, very smooth. Because it is a fish porridge, there is a hint of ginger flavour in it. A pity, there could be more fish fillet.

Century Eggs and Lean Meat Porridge

Instead of the ginger flavour, there were century egg bits in this. Though it was stated as century eggs and lean meat porridge, but I could hardly find the lean meat. Maybe they were so lean that I missed them out. :P

Fried Dim Sums:

We quite like their deep fried mango roll with shrimp paste and fried prawn dumplings Dim Sum. However, the batter crust of bacon roll and mango roll could be thinner as the thick crust tasted too greasy.

Deep-Fried Yam Dumpling

I like how the size of this dim sim is just nice. The tart strawberry slices rids off the greasy taste.


For $18.80, you get to enjoy a la carte buffet at a five star hotel – it can be considered worthwhile. Tea charges separately and per pax. Depending on the variety, it can cost up to $12 plus per person.

I like how they allowed people to order the dim sum by the number of pieces. All of the guests will be ensure one piece of the dim sum when served and it allowed us to order more of those which we like more.
I am however rather disappointed with the service crew. Firstly, I thought they should spend some time explaining to customers what they are serving for the first time, but no. More than often, I could not get their attention for my order. The same thing happened when I called for bill. The only consolation was that they do cleared the dirty plates quite often.

Lastly, the repeatedly use of prawn paste in every dim sum really gets on our nerves. Every dim sum almost tasted similar and it kind of get very sick of it at the end of the buffet.

Because of their reputation as a five star hotel Chinese restaurant, I suggest they should improve the quality of their buffet. No point sacrificing quality for “quantity”. Reputation worth more, in my opinion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ch 8 抢摊大行动 - Bedok Reservoir Rd Chicken Rice

Ok, anyone watched the channel 8 show - 抢摊大行动’s Bedok Reservoir Chicken Rice episode just now?

I felt so sorry for the hawker – Xiong. He lost the gold medal because of one vote!

I have been a fan of the show and have watched several episodes this season. Out of so many hawkers who participated, Xiong showed the most enthusiasm. I was pretty impressed by him from start that he appeared to be positive despite his plight. Also, different from the usual 抢摊hawkers who always appeared blur and slow, he do not even need to be prompt by the host Quan Yi Feng and Zhong Qin to listen or to start asking questions and even took initiative to ask the Chef relevant questions. Of course, one might argued that he had 20 years of experience to begin with, thus appeared to be at ease and could learn the rope fast. But what is more heartening is that he displayed positive attitude throughout the show.

I thought he had a high chance of getting gold, but too bad he met a difficult食客 (eater)。 She commented that the rice was too hard and that the chicken meat was uncooked. I was slightly flabbergasted when hearing her comments. Indeed, I did not taste the chicken rice myself, but from what I see the chicken meat looked quite decent, the boiled chicken looked quite tender. Rest of the 29 eaters also thought that the food is nice. Furthermore, Chef Judges also gave their thumbs up. Contrary to that eater’s controversial comments, executive chef from Fairmount rebutted that the rice texture was just nice, not too hard nor too soft. Chef Daniel commented that chicken meat is also perfectly cooked.

I wondered if there were any selection criteria for those eaters? Though the show (not sure whether out of politeness) addressed them as foodies, but I doubt that they are really foodies. You see, anyone off the street can eat and tell you their preference, but not everyone knows how to eat. Eating and knowing how to eat are different skills sets. It is not easy to be a food critic. Now you know, food blogs are more than beautiful photos and tempting words.

Not sure who is more unlucky, the female eater who happened to have eaten a piece of uncooked meat, or Xiong who served her that fateful plate of alleged uncooked chicken meat…

I wish Bedok Reservoir Chicken Rice all the best and hope he would keep up the standard.

How to differentiate a good Chicken Rice?

Actually, what the lady said was incorrect. Good chicken rice texture should be slightly firm, flavourful when eaten on its own and most importantly emitting fragrance of the fried onions and ginger. Unless she is referring to chicken rice balls, otherwise no one eat soft chicken rice.

Usually, when eating boiled chicken meat, you should be able to taste the tenderness and moisture in the meat. In order to retain the tenderness and moisture, cooking time and method are the crux of a good boiled chicken. Boiled Chicken are not boiled all the way, they are in fact boiled for 20 - 30 mins and left soaking in the hot water for 20 - 25 mins. This cooking method allows chicken meat to retain moisture and is usually just done. It is also common to see blood in the bones and thigh meat near the bones, but most of the time, they are not undercooked.

Boiled Chicken meat should also not have texture of the roasted chicken meat. Roasted Chicken (usually fried) is more well done and would have a firmer texture, less moisture.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Coffee Thoughts...

It is at this exact spot where I conceptualised "Photosophize" two years ago...

Before I have started blogging, I had quite a bit of free time on my hand (what to do... no life). I decided to start a blog.

I wanted to blog about photos which I took with my then-newly acquired N73 handphone. I want to write things which interest me, be it unique sights or strange happenings, whatever that I have encountered, I want to blog about it.

The initial theme of the blog was on photos and not so much on food. The name "Photosophize" is a word which I have coined myself by combining "Photo" and "Philosophize" together. I believed every photos had a story to tell and behind every story, there is a moral, a philosophy.

Time passes really fast and Photosophize is already two year old! Just the other day, my brother (not vesparado) was complaining to me that he could not remember my blog name at all and wondered why I had to choose such a difficult to spell name. It reminds me that all my other friends often called my blog "photosynthesis"... It started to haunt me that I should have chosen a easier to remember blog name in the first place.

I wondered if I should move all my food reviews and recipes content to another blog with a easier to remember name... Honestly, I am not really keen to do so, but if all of you thought that I should do so then I will consider.

Let me know your views by participating in the poll on the right hand corner. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Vespa

Vespa which is wasp in itailian is a legendary motor scooter produced by an Italian company. It is a popular brand in Europe and had numerous fan clubs even in Singapore. I am a Vespa fan myself. I am sure no one would never regret getting one.

Vespa has a company history dating back to 1940s. Unlike other transport vehicle, Vespa really hold their value!

I have been dreaming to get a vespa scooter since my secondary school days. Despite much objections by my family, especially mum, I worked, scrimped and finally bought a brand new one last year.
Compared to other bikes and scooters, I believed this modern vespa (LX 150) which I bought is very much safer. It is an auto bike and thus changing of gears is not required. It also requires rider to maintain a good sitting posture, thus minimising the risk of an accident, but of course there are always risks while riding on the busy roads of Singapore.

I guessed what attracted me the most is that Vespa is light and has a speed limit of 140km/h. An ideal ride for both guys and ladies who would like to have a safe and stylish one. (Unless it rains, haha!)

Vivo City - National Geographic Store

Many people probably blogged about this before, but I wanted to share some photos which I have taken at the store.

Some weekend ago, I was at Vivo City doing some window shopping.

Then, I noticed my favourite cable channel - National Geographic actually had a flagship store at Vivo City. So, apart from TV Channel and magazine, they also had a retail store? My oh my... What do they sell there?

Before I even went into the store, I was awe-struck by items in the display window. They are not the usual mannequins, but rather sculpture built from natural materials. The photo above is a horse (I supposed) made with driftwood-like materials.

Another special touch is the huge metal embossed plate encrusted on the floor which reads – “National Geographic Society Founded in 1888”.

On the other side of the display window, there is this beautiful vase made with sea shells. The different kinds of sea shells were half and arranged in flower-like pattern.

I also found another similar made inside the shop. This time around, they used scallop shells and arranged them into a round table lamp.

Another interesting item was the use of reef and arranged them as a table decor. I supposed the reef was probably dead and they decided to make better use of it.

What really captivated me were the photos. Countless frames of them hanged randomly on one of the display walls.

Then in the middle of the store, there is this big red colour glass room. It attracted quite a spectacle among the shoppers – all curiously looked on, wondering what it is for.

Guess what? It is a controlled freezing chamber aka freezer room !

It is built for you to test out their warm clothing.

Inside the freezer room, a huge industrial size turbo fan will be switch on to bring the temperature down. They also installed a heat sense thermometer screen for you to check whether you are properly insulated with their warm jackets.

Here we see mannequin donning explorer-like clothing.
Looking at this particular set of furnitures reminds me of movies like Indiana Jones and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
They eluded explorer-safari theme. If I really went exploring, I wondered how I can move them site to site.
See, the garments are hanged on specially made cabinets like you will see in one’s house.

The trying room reeks heavily with Victorian accent

Actually, all of the items which I mentioned above are for sales, but the store do not just display them blindly. Like Ikea, they suggested how you can mix and match furnitures and items together in order to achieve a certain look.

I especially like how they are arranged unpretentiously, encouraging buyer to feel and touch what they are going to buy home. In fact, this arrangement enhanced the whole shopping experience. One do not feel like being at a retail store, but more like a museum. There is always something to see, something to touch, something to learn something from.

If I ever shop at ViVo City again, I will definately drop-by the store again. I could just spend hours inside the store looking at those amazing photos, imagining how life will be like at the other side of the lens…

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cheapest Roast Duck In Singapore - $13.90 !

Recently, my weekends have been spent on driving lessons at Ubi. Once per week either on Saturday or Sunday and usually 3 hours straight. I am not quite sure how those taxi drivers managed to stay awake on the roads, but I find long hours driving exhausting. My concentration drifted off after one and half hours of driving….

Then at one of the U-Turn point, I always noticed a lot of cars parked at the side along a stretch of road. (Actually, I am always cursing them for blocking my way…) Then, there will be queue at one of the shop house. Of course, how can curious me pass-by without finding out what is going on?

One day, I requested to my driving instructor to let me off there…I happily hopped out of the car, whipped out my camera and looked on curiously at the queue. I noticed the long queue forming in front of a particular shop.

Strangely… the queue is made up of mostly Aunties and Uncles. They were queuing in front of a roast meat shop.

The roast meat shop or Roaster is called Yan Chuan or in Chinese 炎全烧腊.

It is actually wholesaler shop, specialising in Cantonese style roast meat, roast duck and cha siew. Guess what caused the long queue?

Their Pekingese Roast Duck (more like roast duck, explain later) only cost $13.90 which is unbelievable cheap! Reputable roast duck stall charges about $30 plus dollars for one whole roast duck! Take the famous Toa Payoh Lorong 1 roast duck, Hua Fong Kee, as example, half a duck cost $17 dollars already…

I am not sure what is the market price for roast suckling pig, but I supposed it should be cheaper - $128 for one whole pig.

I found out that the roast meats are freshly roasted next to the shop. Coincidentally, one batch of roast ducks just came out of the roaster and I have never seen anything so “magnificent” before. They did not just roasted like 5 or 6 ducks per time. They were like 50 ducks hanging on the racks.

Ok, for vegetarian, I admit that it does looked a bit scary – somewhat like a scene from the horror movie “Hell Raiser”…

Someone also ordered a roast pig from them while I was there. As I was queuing myself, thus missed the opportunity to take photo of the roasted pig…

Hot from the over, these amber coloured ducks have shiny amour-like skin which glittered beautifully under the flash lights.

I bought a roast duck that day and some roast pork. I was quite surprised that the duck was still hot when I reached home. Though it was called “Peking Duck”, the skin was not as crispy as I imagine it would be, but the meat was surprisingly juicy and somewhat tender. Maybe it was freshly out of the oven, I guess.

At $13.90, the duck is considered a good buy, very worthwhile and could rival some of those neighbourhood hawker centre’s roast duck stalls. However taste-wise, Toa Payoh Hua Fong Kee’s still win hand down.

Yan Chuan Roaster(s) Pte Ltd is located at Ubi Ave 2. Peking Duck cost $13.90 and Roast Meat cost $10 dollars per Kg.