Food revisited 2: I’m taking back my words

Canton Paradise

In my previous post The Food Critics Are Here, I reviewed Canton Paradise restaurant located at 112@Katong mall. That was during its initial days of opening, and both my husband and I were not impressed with the quality of the food. There were a few dimsum dishes which were quite good, but on the whole we felt that the quality was only similar to Crystal Jade standard (which has fallen over the years), and not up to Imperial Treasures’.

So last Sunday my husband asked his brother, Francis, what he liked to have for lunch. He asked for dimsum since he can’t get any good ones in Colorado. Immediately I thought of Imperial Treasures restaurant at Tampines One. But my husband suggested we give Canton Paradise another chance since it’s pretty close to church and we could go there after mass. To be honest, I wasn’t very keen but agreed nonetheless.

It turned out that my husband is right that Canton Paradise deserves another chance. The food is much better this time compared to that first disappointing experience, which was likely due to teething problem. I had the roast duck with flat rice noodle (hor fun), which is like the pasta, linguine, except it’s white colored. The noodle is really smooth and the duck is pretty tender. It was almost as tender as what Canton-I restaurant at Ion Orchard mall (which in my opinion, serves the best roast duck in town). I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is.

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We ordered a varieties of different dimsum dishes, and they turned out to be pretty good, very well done and flavorful. We like this pan-fried rice flour with dried shrimps and XO chilli sauce, which is a hit. It has the right balance of flavors.

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Glutinous rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaves

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Steamed rice flour with BBQ pork

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Pan-fried radish

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‘Siew Mai’ (minced pork with fish roe)

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BBQ pork buns

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Steamed beef ball with dried orange peel which is quite moist. It doesn’t come with Lea Perrins sauce unlike the Imperial Treasures version, because of the orange peel.br />;;;;;;
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‘Har Gow’ (steamed shrimp)

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We find that the quality is almost as good as that of Imperial Treasures’, and better than Crystal Jade. I’ve changed my mind about Canton Paradise; we’re definitely returning.

Assam Laksa or otherwise known as Penang Laksa

The Assam Laksa, or noodle with tamarind spiced soup, is a version from Penang which is very different from the Nonya Laksa commonly found in Singapore. The former has tamarind which is not added in the Nonya version, and the latter has coconut milk which is not found in the former. The Assam version has vegetables like cucumber, shallots, herbs like mint, and minced fish added into it; whereas the Nonya version contains coconut milk and has sliced fish cake, shrimps and cockles added, and no vegetables. You can say that the Assam version is a lot more healthier. But I’ve to admit I’ve never liked it, and prefer the Nonya version.

My husband, who was born in Penang, loves the Assam Laksa, and has been checking out those available in Singapore, which is honestly, quite limited. He always lament that he couldn’t get any good ones here, except at Penang Place Restaurant, which he thinks is not bad. Even when we were in Penang a couple of years ago, he felt the Laksa he tried at Gurney Drive hawker center sucked big time. So when his mom came to stay with us recently, she brought with her the Assam soup base which she used to make the Laksa for him and Francis. I didn’t take any because I find that Assam Laksa has a sharp and fishy taste which put me off.

A couple of days ago, my husband took his mom to Tekka market near Little India, and found a wonderful supply of fresh produce, meat and seafood. They bought the ingredients for another round of Assam Laksa, and this time my husband learned the recipe from his mom and prepared the soup base himself. He set aside a small portion of separate soup for me which doesn’t contain pineapples, since I’m heavily pregnant, and persuaded me to try by telling me the ingredients that went into it, chili, lemongrass, mint, vietnamese peppermints, shallots, garlic, galangal, and bunga kantan (ginger flower). I like lemongrass and Vietnamese peppermints, and so gave it a try. It was different from what I had previously; in fact it was pretty good and very appetizing. There was a good balance of sharpness and sweetness, no fishy taste, and combined with fresh vegetables and herbs, it got me consuming the entire bowl. In fact my husband also got me to try a little of his that had pineapples, which he said is what binds everything together. He’s right, it makes the soup tastes even better. I think what I had previously, not home-cooked, used sardines which my mother-in-law disdains. She told us that the right fish for the dish is a small local fish that goes by the name of ‘Kamong’ (?).

Anyway here’s the table laden with food. My mother-in-law made a black chicken soup and a celery with shrimp dish for me, as a back up in case I didn’t like the Laksa.

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We have the freshly cut cucumber, pineapples, shallots, lime and mints which we added to the soup and noodle; similar to Vietnamese pho where you add in the mints and bean sprouts into the soup.

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Here’s my bowl of Laksa and below is my husband’s. I was a little surprised that it’s flavored with fermented prawn paste before you eat it. At least that’s how my husband and his family have it.

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You can say that I’m now a convert to Assam Laksa, but only if it’s made by my mother-in-law or husband.

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