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Tim Ho Wan 添好運

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Widely touted as Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum, Tim Ho Wan has never failed to draw long crowds outside their 2 branches since the first outlet opening in March 2013 and its second outlet in September 2013. We are definitely attracted to the Michelin-backed good food, but with mixed reviews about the Singapore outlets not matching up to the Hong Kong’s standards, we stopped short of joining the horrendously long queues during the 1st couple of months of opening. And another way to escape the long queues is to visit the 2nd, off-town outlet outside of peak lunch and dinner times.

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan

The menu isn’t very extensive and was presented simply on a single page. There aren’t many fanciful offerings, most of them were traditional dim sum fare.

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork 酥皮焗叉烧包

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork 酥皮焗叉烧包

As we observed trays and trays of freshly baked BBQ pork buns being dished out from the ovens and almost every table having at least 1 serving of this, there was no doubt that the most popular dish was the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork 酥皮焗叉烧包 ($4.50 for 3). The buns were unique, and unlike any served in other dim sum restaurants. The crust was crumbly with a tinge of sweetness. The aroma of the freshly baked crumbly crust was irresistible. It wasn’t overly thick and doughy. The inner fillings of the BBQ pork wasn’t as likeable as the outer crust. The quantity of fillings wasn’t to our expectations. It was a bit too sweet as well. Texture wise, the proportion of meat seemed to be lacking, and there just wasn’t enough bite and meaty tenderness to it.

Pan Fried Carrot Cake 香煎萝卜糕

Pan Fried Carrot Cake 香煎萝卜糕

Another one of Tim Ho Wan’s Big 4 Heavenly Kings is the Pan Fried Carrot Cake 香煎萝卜糕 ($4.50 for 3). The searing on the carrot cake was adequately done – just enough to give it that extra crisp and charred flavours, without being overly burnt. The carrot cake seemed pretty soft though, as it was on the verge of disintegrating just be the mere pick up using chopsticks. And there wasn’t any dried shrimps or Chinese sausages embedded in the carrot cake – that was pretty disappointing as it made the carrot cake seemed one-dimensional and boring.

Vermicelli Roll with Pig's Liver 黄沙猪润肠

Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver 黄沙猪润肠

One of the more unique items was the Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver 黄沙猪润肠 ($5.50), since in Singapore, pig’s liver is not typically found in vermicelli rolls. The vermicelli roll was thin, semi-translucent, smooth and when immersed in the sauce, it was very fragrant and savoury. The fillings of pig’s liver wasn’t really our favourite, mainly due to the fact that we aren’t fans of pig’s livers to start off with. It had a queer texture and the characteristic taste of pig’s liver just didn’t go well with us.

Steam Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp 鲜虾菠菜饺

Steam Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp 鲜虾菠菜饺

The Steam Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp 鲜虾菠菜饺 ($3.80 for 3) was pretty mediocre. The proportion of spinach was overwhelming and completely masked out any taste of prawns. It was just too much spinach and every mouth was just spinach leaves and stalks, which was just not appetizing given that the spinach was under-flavoured and the prawns were just non-existent.

Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp 美味燜鲜竹卷

Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp 美味燜鲜竹卷

The Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp 美味燜鲜竹卷 ($4 for 3) was a simple and comforting dish. The sauce was very thick and savoury. There was a good balance of pork and shrimp, with neither outshining the other. Fresh crunchy prawns with the sweet minced pork, tied together with a thin layer of beancurd skin, and drenched in a viscous thick sauce – nicely done.

Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake 杞子桂花糕

Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake 杞子桂花糕

The meal ended on a perfect note with a sweet and refreshing Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake 杞子桂花糕 ($3.50 for 3). The jelly wasn’t too soft, was still bouncy and chewy. The wolfberries were almost like raisins, they added burst of sweetness to the jelly. The osmanthus fragrance and flavour formed the backdrop of this jelly. This cold dessert drew a perfect closure to an otherwise porky dim sum feast.

Tim Ho Wan
#02-02, ERA Centre Toa Payoh
450 Toa Payoh Lorong 6

Written by foodphd

October 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Brunch, Chinese, High-tea

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北京美食之旅 – 大碗居

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Hoping to move away from the spicy and oily dishes in Beijing, we headed to 大碗居 for some simple home-cooked fare, as what the Chinese term 家常菜. 大碗居 is popular with the locals for its reasonably priced and good quality 家常菜.

虫草花自制酿粉

虫草花自制酿粉

We started off with a cold appetizer of 虫草花自制酿粉 (clear noodles with Chinese caterpillar fungus, 20RMB). We’ve got to admit that the black, flat and fat glass noodles, with the worm look-alike meat strips, didn’t look quite appetizing. But this time round, looks are indeed deceiving. The flat noodles were al-dente, chewy and very smooth. It had adequately absorbed the gravy, and hence on its own, it was moist and savoury. As it was served cold, it tasted refreshing and very appetizing. There was a touch of vinegar in the dish, adding that little sour tanginess, making this a great starter.

野蓝莓淮山糕

野蓝莓淮山糕

The 野蓝莓淮山糕 (wild cream, 32 RMB) has got to be the most interesting and unique dish we have tried in Beijing. When this dish was brought to the table, we were slightly baffled. In no way could we even imagine what the dish would look and taste like. It seemed to be a dessert, yet could also be an appetizer. It looked like whipped cream which for a moment, stumped us. The mystery was unveiled when we took a spoonful of it. Looks wise, it looked every bit like cream. However, it was much richer, heavier and denser compared to whipped cream. In fact, it was likened more to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Just that in this case, it was mashed Chinese yam. Every mouth was pure mashed Chinese yam, it wasn’t enhanced with starch. The Chinese yam exuded a subtle taste of herbs, not too strong in flavour. But the drizzle of blueberries added a sour-sweet burst to it. The stone-like features beside the yam were actually chocolates. Interesting and sophisticated dish.

酱爆桃仁鸡

酱爆桃仁鸡

Main course of the day was the 酱爆桃仁鸡 (sauteed chicken with walnut, 38 RMB). This was seemingly the only chicken dish we tried in Beijing. In Beijing, chicken dishes are not as popular compared to mutton and beef. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do a good job about it. The 酱爆桃仁鸡 was well-caramelized, giving the chicken a slightly sweet and sticky outer layer. The walnuts were very crunchy and fresh and with the caramelization plus sesame seeds, the walnuts tasted like candied walnuts.

大碗居 – 体育馆店
东城区法华寺街(近体育馆西路路口)

Written by foodphd

August 25, 2013 at 8:48 am

Posted in Beijing, Chinese

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北京美食之旅 – 干锅居

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Another restaurant chain commonly visited by locals is 干锅居, which specializes in 贵州菜.

干锅居

干锅居

And their specialty:

苗家干锅鸡

苗家干锅鸡

The 苗家干锅鸡 (griddle cooked chicken with pepper, 59 RMB) was served in a wok, atop a lighted stove. The chicken has already been cooked, but it was the 腐竹 (dried tofu strips) and 酸笋 (bamboo shoots) which were still hard and crunchy. Hence, this dish was finished on the table, where the waitress would periodically walk over to stir fry and finish up this dish. The chicken chunks were very well-flavoured and tender. It wasn’t overly spicy, though it started to get a little oily towards the end.

茶树菇双腊

茶树菇双腊

The 茶树菇双腊 (sauteed preserved meat with agrocybe aegerila, 39 RMB) was a mediocre stir fry dish. The mushrooms were a tad under-flavoured and the preserved meat was so fatty that we totally avoided it. This dish could do with a little more spiciness.

蛋黄南瓜

蛋黄南瓜

The 蛋黄南瓜 (deep-fried pumpkin with yolk, 19 RMB) wasn’t too oily; the pumpkin slices were coated in a thin egg yolk batter and deep fried to create that crunchy outer crust while still retaining the soft pumpkin flesh. One downside was that we figured that the pumpkin was coated in an egg yolk batter which was added with salt, instead of using a salted egg yolk batter. This resulted in the pumpkin exuding a very monotonous, heavy, dense and one-dimensional saltiness. A salted egg yolk batter would have better elevated the saltiness and fragrance of this dish.

天麻煲排骨

天麻煲排骨

The 天麻煲排骨 (braised spare ribs with rhizoma gastrodiae in casserole, 39 RMB) was a very rich pork-ribs based soup. In fact, for those who are sensitive towards the taste of pork, this soup is a definite no-no. The richness, flavour and aroma of the pork came out very strongly in this soup. It was also rather salty, not the kind of light, refreshing soup to end a rich meal.

干锅居 – 五道口店
海淀区中关村东路1号
(清华东门外搜狐网络大厦二层)

Written by foodphd

August 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Beijing, Chinese

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北京美食之旅 – 嘉和一品 Porridge Jiahe

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On a hot sunny day in Beijing, the best dessert to cool us down is porridge. You’ve heard it right – dessert porridge, otherwise known as 冰粥. And one of the more popular stores in Beijing famous for their dessert porridge is 嘉和一品 Porridge Jiahe.

(anti-clockwise from foreground) 香甜芒果冰粥, 荷叶绿豆冰粥, 酸甜乌梅冰粥, 山楂银耳冰粥

(anti-clockwise from foreground) 香甜芒果冰粥, 荷叶绿豆冰粥, 酸甜乌梅冰粥, 山楂银耳冰粥

嘉和一品 Porridge Jiahe doesn’t just offer 冰粥, they do offer an array of savoury porridge. However, we were definitely more intrigued and drawn to the idea of cold porridge and ordered all 4 available 冰粥.

The 冰粥 wasn’t exactly like its direct translation of “iced porridge”. It was more like a cold porridge. 冰粥 consisted of mushy, soft rice grains, every bit like our normal savoury porridge, except for the fact that it was cold, sweet and refreshing.

One can imagine that the 香甜芒果冰粥 (mango porridge) would taste similar to the typical mango desserts in Singapore. The icy cold mango flavoured porridge was basically made up of rice grains and small mango cubes. The 荷叶绿豆冰 (green bean) was nothing too special as it tasted almost like the green bean soup found in Singapore.

The more interesting and unique 冰粥 were the 酸甜乌梅冰粥 (sour plums) and 山楂银耳冰粥 (hawthorne fruit and fungus). The sweet and sour plums added a more complicated flavour profile to the porridge. The 山楂银耳冰粥 tended towards a more herbal type of porridge. In terms of flavour profile, both were more multi-dimensional and unique.

Cold dessert porridge – what can get better than that on a hot, sunny day in Beijing?

嘉和一品 Porridge Jiahe
海淀区成府路29号(华联对面)

Written by foodphd

August 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Beijing, Chinese, Desserts

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北京美食之旅 – 麻辣誘惑

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麻辣誘惑 (Spice Spirit), as its name goes, wows the China crowd with its spicy culture. More than 50% of the dishes on its menu are spicy. So if you aren’t a chili lover, this place isn’t for you. And with 15 outlets spanning across Beijing, the Chinese love for spicy, in particular 麻辣, cuisine, cannot be stopped!

上汤丝瓜尖, 上汤娃娃菜

上汤丝瓜尖, 上汤娃娃菜

Started off the meal with some non-spicy, soup-based vegetables to cleanse the palate – 上汤丝瓜尖 (luffa tip, 22RMB) , 上汤娃娃菜 (baby Chinese cabbage, 22RMB). Nothing too praise-worthy, but just something healthier, lighter and less rich to reduce the workload of our digestive system.

砂钵什锦野生菌

砂钵什锦野生菌

And then comes the heavy, flavourful dishes! First up was the 砂钵什锦野生菌 (sand mixed wild mushrooms, 42 RMB), which consisted of abalone mushrooms, tea tree mushrooms, golden mushrooms, 口蘑 (a type of wild mushroom) and pork belly. The medley of mushrooms contributed different textures. Every bite was just bursting with flavours, with adequate acceptable spiciness without being overly oily. The pork belly wasn’t too fatty and exuded a meaty fragrance. We love how each bite came with juicy and chewy mushrooms, enhanced with the fragrance from the spices.

麻辣香锅鱿鱼

麻辣香锅鱿鱼

The spicy level of the meal was tuned one notch up with the arrival of the 麻辣香锅鱿鱼 (mala claypot squid). The squid had been coated with a batter and deep fried before finishing in the claypot with potato strips and luffa. There was more chili fragrance and spice in this dish, evident from the huge chunks of chili in the claypot. The squid was fresh and chewy, slightly salty due to the batter. The potato strips had been cooked till soft, but not mushy. Not exactly 麻辣 though.

金牌水煮鱼

金牌水煮鱼

The highlight of the meal, the epitome of 麻辣誘惑 – it is the signature, every table has to have it, 金牌水煮鱼 (boiled organic grass carp in hot oil, 79 RMB). This is the representation of the 麻辣 culture, using the 金阳麻椒 and 安阳子弹头辣椒 and cooking the grass carp in 220°C oil. It was actually quite mind-blowing to be staring at this fish which was literally swamped and overwhelmed with chopped chili and chili seeds. And before eating the fish, we had to patiently scrap away the 金阳麻椒, as any bite into it will probably ruin our taste buds for the entire meal. When we finally savoured the fish, it was absolutely comforting. The fish was very fresh, very soft and tender – almost decadently breaking apart in our mouths. We were each given a piece of white bread, which served as an oil absorber for the fish. This ensured that we wouldn’t be drinking oil as we savoured the fish. The dish was very fragrant, given the large and generous amount of chili. Beneath the fish was a large serving of bean sprouts. We tried to avoid the bean sprouts though, as they had quite thoroughly soaked up the oil in this dish.

麻辣誘惑 – 崇文门店
北京市崇文区崇文门外搜秀商城7层

Written by foodphd

August 23, 2013 at 8:02 am

Posted in Beijing, Chinese

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北京美食之旅 – 海底捞火锅

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In December 2012, 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot opened its first overseas outlet – right here in Singapore. It created a big hoo-ha as 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot was extremely popular in China with long waiting times of a few hours at every single outlet. The food was not only great, it was the thoughtful service and clean environment which attracted the China crowd every night.

We have not visited the local outlet in Singapore. What was even better was that we had the chance to visit one of the older 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot outlet in Beijing!

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

As we had reached just past the lunch hour, there wasn’t much crowd and we skipped the queuing process. As this was an older outlet, food was still ordered using a paper menu, rather than iPads at some newer branches. The waitresses were particularly attentive. For customers who wore glasses, spectacle cleaning cloths would be provided. For those with un-tied long hair, hair rubber bands would be offered. And for those who can’t part with their phones, they provided transparent ziplock bags to contain the phones. A large cloth would also be used to cover our bags. And finally, an apron to prevent any splashes n spills onto our clothes. All these done in a bid for the customers to enjoy a hassle free, clean and comfortable meal.

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot provides a long table of various condiments for customers to concoct their very own dipping sauce – and this was always an excitement for us. We chose the hot pot duo, which came with a non-spicy soup base and a 麻辣 spicy soup base. The 麻辣 soup base was really authentically 麻辣 – it was filled with red hot spicy sichuan peppers which gave the soup a very strong spicy kick with a rich fragrance. Definitely not for drinking though, solely meant to flavour the ingredients.

The ingredients at 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot spanned across a wide variety and were very fresh. In particular, we enjoyed the Handmade mashed shrimp, which was essentially fresh shrimp paste contained in a tight transparent bag. Upon request, the waiter would squeeze out the shrimp paste from the bag and into the hot pot. The cooked shrimp paste was somewhat like a prawn ball. It was succulent, juicy and very fresh.

As the China palate leans to beef and mutton, there weren’t really many chicken or pork offerings. Hence, we stuck to ingredients such as assorted mushrooms (golden mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, abalone mushrooms), frozen tofu, sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots, Chinese yam and potato slices.

And at 4 RMB per pax, we could enjoy a free flow of 3 kinds of drinks – black soya bean milk, lemonade or herbal tea. The black soya bean milk was a spiciness quencher. It could most effectively bring down the spiciness caused by the 麻辣 soup.

Our first visit was just after lunch time on a weekday. We were so impressed, we made a 2nd trip to another branch for an early dinner on a weekend. And around 7pm, this was the scene that greeted us as we left the restaurant:

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

This was just a fraction of the crowd who was waiting to enter 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot. In every outlet, tables were placed outside the restaurant where free flow of snacks and drinks were available to the waiting customers. There were also free manicure (weekdays) and hand massage (weekends) for the ladies and free shoe polish services for the men. At this particular outlet, there was even a host gathering customers to participate in mini games.

With great thoughtful service + many free services and snacks + great fresh food + flavourful soup bases + a clean dining environment, it is no wonder 海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot remains the top hot pot restaurant in Beijing.

海底捞火锅 Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
牡丹园店
海淀区花园东路2号
北京,中国

Written by foodphd

August 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

Posted in Beijing, Chinese

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北京美食之旅 – 姚记炒肝店

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As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Beijing, eat what the locals eat. That led us to 姚记炒肝店.

姚记炒肝店

姚记炒肝店

The place wasn’t very big, and when we reached, we managed to snag a seat. But 10 minutes later, the entire place was swamped with locals. There was much screaming around as orders were being taken and delivered. But this is the true authentic dining scene in local Beijing.

(anti-clockwise from foreground) 卤煮火烧, 炒肝, 炸酱面, 驴打滚

(anti-clockwise from foreground) 卤煮火烧, 炒肝, 炸酱面, 驴打滚

At 姚记炒肝店, you can find authentic Beijing local street fare. Food which the locals eat and enjoy on a daily basis, without putting a hole in their pockets. The 卤煮火烧 (18 RMB) actually tasted like the local Singapore kway chap. In fact, it consisted of the same ingredients – pig intestines, beancurd puffs, pig’s stomach. The soup had the same flavours, especially that saltiness, as with local kway chap.

The 炒肝 (6 RMB) looked different from expected. We had thought that it was a quick stir fry dish of pig liver. But it turned out to be braised pig liver, soaked in a starchy and very thick broth. Not really to our liking as we never did appreciate the grain texture of the pig liver.

We also had the opportunity to try the 炸酱面 (12 RMB). Nothing too praise-worthy. Almost comparable to what we can find in Singapore.

The final dish from 姚记炒肝店 is the 驴打滚, which is reminiscent of the muah chee in Singapore. 驴打滚 is a soybean-flour cake, with red bean fillings. Dough is first made with soybean flour and topped with red bean paste filling. After which, it is rolled in soybean flour, seemingly like a donkey rolling in dust, hence the name 驴打滚. It is dense and sweet, with the aroma from the soybean flour. It has a glutinous-like texture and with the soybean flour powdery surface, 驴打滚 looks just like a cousin of muah chee.

姚记炒肝店
东城区鼓楼东大街311号(鼓楼湾东南角)

Written by foodphd

August 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Beijing, Chinese

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