There’re the wonderfood and the average ones

I’m not exactly a fan of peranakan Kuehs, also known as Kue or Kuih, a bite-size sweet snacks made from rice or glutinous rice. But there are some which I do like, and one of them is Ondeh-Ondeh, a glutinous rice ball filled with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and covered with shredded coconut. It’s not easy to find good Ondeh-Ondeh, as most either have thick skin which is a little too chewy or there is insufficient filling.

The only Ondeh-Ondeh which meets my stringent criteria is a stall at Maxwell Hawker Center, which has a nice thin chewy skin with the gula melaka filling oozes out when you bite into it. I don’t get to have it often as the hawker center is a little out of the way for me, and besides I cannot get the opening hours of the stall. I only managed to try them when an ex-colleague went there early morning before work to get the snacks for us. But the last time I had it, which was a few years ago, the filling seemed to have reduced, and that was a disappointment.

I don’t get to have Ondeh-Odeg much because I tend to assume it’s not well made. But lately I discovered a shop that exceeded my expectations. Actually it was discovered by my husband when we were at Greenich V at Yio Chu Kang. It’s called Chinta Manis, which is not unknown to me but I’ve never tried the food. My husband thought it might be worth checking out the Kuehs as the name and layout of the shop seems rather authentic. (He explains that the word ‘chinta’ is spelled correctly in peranakan, as it’s commonly misspelled without the ‘h’.) To those unfamiliar, Peranakan is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cultures when the Chinese came to the Malay peninsular a few centuries ago, and this culture is unique to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

My husband got an Ondeh-Ondeh for me to try. I was a little surprised to find a fairly large glutinous rice ball as it tends to be bite-size, in box of four. He had a bite and said,”hmm, this is really good, you should try it.” I did, and must say I find this better than the one from Maxwell. Not only does it have thin skin with a nice chewy texture, it’s also filled with gula melaka, though not in the liquid form like one from Maxwell. Even though the filling doesn’t ooze out, but it’s very satisfying to bite into chunks of it and less messy too.

The other day I decided to check out the Chinta Manis cafe at China Square foodcourt. I got a dry mee siam (thin rice flour noodle with hard boiled egg, fried diced tofu and omelette strips).

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It’s pretty flavorful and tasty with the chilli, though a tad dry. (The typical mee siam comes with a spiced gravy.)

I also ordered a few Kuehs, clockwise from top left: Pulut Seri Kaya, Ondeh Ondeh and Chendol Agar Agar.

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What I like about their Kuehs is that they are not overly sweet, and made using good quality ingredients with lots of care. The kaya Kueh is pretty tasty, the Ondeh Ondeh is consistently good, while the Chendol agar agar tastes like the dessert though I wish the red bean is cooked slightly longer so that it’s softer. Still, I highly recommend the shop for the Kueh which is truly sumptuous. I’m planning to try the nasi lemak and the durian puff next.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, we’re approaching the end of the 7th month, and in a few weeks’ time it’s the mid-autumn festival. To be exact, it falls on 19th September. As expected, mooncakes are now flooding into the market, with some bakeries such as Bengawan Solo started selling them at the beginning of August. I was surprised to find that even Starbucks have gotten into the act this year, offering mini mooncakes.

The Starbucks mooncakes are truly mini, at only 2.5″ wide. There are various flavors: traditional white lotus paste with egg yolk, coffee white lotus paste with almond, and green tea white lotus paste with black sesame and almond.

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I tried the one with salted duck egg yolk (only this type of egg yolk is used to fill the middle of the mooncake), because I’m into the traditional mooncake, and was pleasantly surprised that it has one whole yolk in it. I bite into it and decided this was much better than expected. The lotus paste filling is smooth, the pastry skin is well baked, and the egg yolk is cooked just right. The mooncake can seriously give the big brand names a run for their money.

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I’m a sucker for salted egg yolk. It may seems strange but the combination of the sweet lotus paste filling with the savory egg yolk is irresistible for me (though it’s also pretty unhealthy because a mooncake is loaded with sugar and lard). My husband, who announced this year that he wouldn’t have any, was tempted when I touted the one from Starbucks. When he tried it, he had to agree that it was wonderful. The other day I got one for myself so that I could take pictures for the blog, he exclaimed, “how could you didn’t get one for me too?”

The Starbucks mooncake is a good compromise for us, since it’s 3 times smaller than the usual size but costs S$4.80. Yes, it’s pretty steep so that will deter me from chomping on one everyday. I’m likely going to get one each for myself and my husband again on the day of the festival itself.

Last weekend we went to town, and my husband spotted the Thai steamboat restaurant, MK Thai, at 313 Somerset mall. He had tried the food donkey years ago in Bangkok and loved the dip. So we decided to check out the food, partly for my husband to relive nostalgia. The restaurant is rather big and despite being a Saturday lunch hour, it was not even half filled. I noticed that most of the staff are Thai. The funny thing is despite having a number of staff, only a couple of them are designated to attend to diners waiting at the entrance.

The restaurant has an innovative touch-screen menu at each table, which also shows the bill for the meal.

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The food choices are wide, and there are even dimsum dishes. We ordered a vegetable platter, pork liver, chicken balls, prawn balls , sliced beef, and steamed custard buns. For the steamboat soup, we asked the original stock.

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The ingredients are rather fresh, but the famed MK dip was a disappointment. We find it a little too tart. My husband tried adding the sweet ponzu dip into it, and it didn’t really help much. My husband feels that the bottled dip sucks, unlike the freshly made one he had at the Bangkok restaurant. With the
wonderful memory of the dip dashed, he declared he is not returning to the restaurant. I guess the fact that the restaurant seems unable to fill its tables for Saturday lunch should be an indication.

We went over to Ion Orchard after lunch and checked out basement four for new food. A new ice-cream joint has opened that claimed to be innovative. Called ‘Just Like It’, it offers ice-cream made on the spot. The whole set-up resembles a lab operation with staff in white lab coat.

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Instead of ice-creams in tubs, they are in glass bottles.

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The ice-creams are supposedly 100% natural with no additives. There are limited flavors available and I chose the ‘Durian Durian’.

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The shop tries to use theatrics to sell the ice-cream, like using liquid nitrogen to quick-freeze the ingredients.

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The end result, though tastes authentic and not overly sweet, looks like home-made ice-cream. For a regular size cup ice-cream at S$6.90, it is really not worth it since it’s just not spectacular. The theatrics get stale after a while.

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