Saturday, January 21, 2012

Steamboat - a Chinese new year eve's tradition

This Sunday, Jan 22nd marks Chinese New Year eve in the Lunar calendar. For chinese families we gather back home on this day to feast. It is called the Reunion dinner, which represents drawing family members back home once a year from near and far - in order to catch up and usher the new year together.

We prepare a steamboat, also known as a hotpot. A hotpot has different versions in Korean and Japanese culture - with use of different ingredients. For the Chinese, common foods are fish (representing an abundant year), lettuce (representing vigorous), shallot (representing wisdom), celery (representing diligence), chicken and duck. However, each family can choose their favourite ingredients and there is no hard and fast rule on what to put into the hotpot.

For someone new to preparing a steamboat, I highly encourage your attempts as it is a healthy way in consuming food which uses minimal oil. First, you need an electrical/gas powered steamboat pot. I couldn't find it easily in Australia, there are plenty available in Asian countries at the appliances store.
Usually you can choose the pot, it either comes with one or two sections. If you had a choice, I recommend choosing the pot with 2 sections as you can create 2 types of soup.

Making the soup stock: In order to make it as healthy as possible - either make a chicken/pork/beef stock from scratch by boiling the meat in a pot, or purchase premade stock cubes at the supermarket. One thing to keep in mind is to read the ingredients to make sure there is no msg in the stock cubes. As msg (monosodium glutamate) is abundant in many asian sauces, stock cubes and asian style meat balls to enhance the flavour - it has to be avoided to provide a healthy version of steamboat.

If you like spicy soups, purchase a tom yam soup premade base at an asian store for your steamboat.
Now for the ingredients for a Healthy Steamboat:

Less Meat and Eggs: Choose lean meat that is preferably free range - chicken, pork, beef slices. Choose less fishballs and asian style meat balls as some of them have msg. Chicken eggs (raw, to be placed into the pot) and quail eggs (hardboiled and peeled).

Less Carbs: Rice vermicelli (raw, to be put into soup), Sweet potato noodles (raw, to be put into soup), cooked brown/white rice. 

More Seafood: Choose scallops, prawns, sliced fish (of sustainable origin, not overfished). Scallops and prawns help in making the soup sweet.

More Vegetables: Spinach, Lettuce, Mushrooms (enoki and shiitake), silken tofu (cut into cubes)

You will be amazed on how full you will be just eating these ingredients. Also refrain from using plastic chopsticks and utensils as plastics contain xenoestrogens that are transferred to hot food. To start, begin with adding the meat, allow it to cook while adding other ingredients as you go.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ci Yan Vegetarian in the heart of Chinatown, Singapore

Brown Rice Set, S$6.50
Address: 8 Smith street, Chinatown.

I love coming to Chinatown to explore the wonderful temples, such as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  The streets of chinatown are a huge tourist spot near Chinese New Year. Heaps of locals flock to this area to buy chinese new year cookies, goodies, food and decorations.

Looking for some healthy food to inspire your  spiritual journey to explore Buddhism? I highly recommend Ci Yan Vegetarian. I have known of this place 6 years ago and love the family who runs this business. The man with glasses is a little eccentric, however he speaks fluent chinese and english. Service is a little slow, as he has many things to do, peeling the vegetables to be cooked and collecting the money. There is also an unspoken culture to clean up after you are done, by scraping the leftovers into the bin and stacking the utensils and plates on the trolley close to the kitchen.

The outdoor decor may not entice you to go inside. The sliding door was hard to open for me - that is why I call this a gem because looks are deceiving. Inside you can see the different Buddhist altars, bookshelf and pictures of the Dalai Lama. Coming here at 5pm for an early dinner was the best way to enjoy some peace and quiet. They get really busy around 7pm so I suggest you to come by early. I ordered the brown rice set, which consisted of random selection of vegetables - spinach, stewed pumpkin, mushrooms, asian style green beans, sliced carrots on cabbage with mango dressing. 

Overall rating: 7/10

Ambience: 3.5/5

Service: 3/5

Food: 3.5/5

Friday, January 13, 2012

Onaka Healing Cafe, Rochester Park - Singapore

The Onaka group has created an amazing cafe that is located at Rochester and Biopolis.
At the Rochester park cafe, Onaka body and soul is about 10 mins walk from Buona Vista station. Walking there can be a little confusing, refer to the map before embarking to your adventure.
Another option is to take a taxi, it would take less than 5-6 mins to get there.

I love the ambience here - you can just spend hours at their outdoor setting to catch up with friends. It is a peaceful place to come during the day time - enjoy the breeze while chatting with friends. Service was slow - it took a while for the staff to attend to us as they were busy with their orders. 

Barley risotto: S$18
 Ellie ordered the Barley risotto. It consisted of organic pearl barley, saffron broth, grilled asparagus and pecorino romano. The asparagus was grilled nicely, it is still crunchy in the middle. I like my veggies slightly undercooked as it retains the vitality.
Pearl barley, you would think it would taste weird as it is usually used in asian desserts. However, it is a unique twist - it went well with the saffron broth. Highly recommend it.

Zen Bowl: S$16

And I ordered a Zen Bowl. It consisted of Organic brown rice, tofu triangles, roasted tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, edamame, miso sauce, nutritional yeast and nori seaweed.

One word: Yum!!! The tofu triangles were marinated with soy sauce/ some japanese sauce that brought out the authentic flavour of tofu. The roasted tomatoes and sliced zucchini were done just right, which went well with the rice. The shitake mushrooms were sliced thinly and cooked to perfection. The brown rice was layered with miso paste, nutritional yeast, freshly chopped nori and went well with edamame.

Spirulina Iron Shake: S$9
I love green smoothies and it is no surprise that I shared with Ellie their Spirulina Iron Shake. In it was spinach, bananas, soy milk and spirulina. I love the combination - green smoothies always go good with bananas - especially when they are ripe.

Overall rating: 9/10

Ambience: 4.5/5

Service: 3/5

Food: 5/5

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Visit to Real Food Cafe Singapore

I visited Real Food Cafe early this year and found the ambience cosy - a nice place to hang out with friends to catch up over good food.

Wheatgrass and Apple, S$6
It was late afternoon and I decided to be adventurous and try their juices. I ordered a Wheatgrass and apple juice.It was quite sour, it might be the use of green apples with wheatgrass juice. I miss my normal green smoothies that I make in Melbourne, wish they made smoothies like that. Could be improved.

Choice of 2 flavours, 2 scoops: S$3.80

I had their unique Brown Rice Ice Cream which is vegan, there were a range of flavours to choose from. I chose the banana oat and hazelnut chocolate. Other flavours were unique,which range from curry flavoured ice cream (I wonder how would that taste!) to normal flavours such as strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. The texture of the ice cream is creamy, you wouldn't even know that it is dairy free. 

Overall - the brown rice ice cream is the attraction, I will always come back for this unique dessert. Service is quick, the staff remembers you. Mains could be improved, my friend had the Mushroom Aglio Olio which had an absence of olive oil.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Original Sin - Singapore

Mediterranean Wrap
Situated near Holland Village mrt, Original Sin stands out as a restaurant that caters to health conscious customers. The menu offers mediterranean cuisine that is an ideal diet that Naturopaths recommend to patients.

I came here during lunch time in which they offered a lunch set ($27) which consisted of a choice of smoothie/soup of the day, main course, brownie for dessert and coffee/tea.

I chose the Tropical smoothie that consisted of dairy milk and banana. The smoothie tasted diluted (not enough addition of bananas) which was disappointing.
The Meditarranean wrap was good, the dressing of balsamic vinegar complimented the salad and the wrap. Ingredients were fresh and the wrap was crispy.

For dessert, was the brownie with ice cream. What could be improved in the menu for Original Sin was to clearly list the dairy free and gluten free options as df and gf. It would make customers more clear of what foods are free from dairy and gluten. Also, description of the brownie was not in depth in the menu, for diet conscious people they would be interested to know what ingredients are in the brownie instead of asking the staff.

Service is attentive and fast. I recommend this place when you are at Holland Village.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Ambience: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Food: 3.5/5