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30 Jan 2014

Bak Kwa Madness for coming Chinese New Year??

Chinese New Year is just around the corner tomorrow and I have been experimenting to make Bak Kwa
with my friend since the start of January.

I came across an article on New Paper - 'Behind the scenes in a bak kwa shop' which featured Lim Chee
Guan. There was even a video to give public a peek at its HQ at Pandan Loop. Obviously the secret recipe
was not included in this article.

My eyes almost popped out of my socket when I saw that 1kg of Bak Kwa was going for $50.00 at the
shop! Gosh! Those people have been queuing for hours too and they mentioned that it was worth the wait.
Is it a tradition that Chinese New Year means Bak Kwa time?

The link of the article can be found here.

Another article which I came across last Monday with the heading

HED CHEF EXTRA: How to make your own bak kwa
sparked my interest.

The recipe given was:

-1kg minced pork (shoulder butt)
-220g fine sugar
-1½ tsp salt
-1 tsp light soya sauce
-1 tbsp oyster sauce
-½ tsp five spice powder
-1½ tbsp Chinese rice wine
-Pinch of red food colouring powder

I guessed many people who tried making it would be greatly disappointed as it would never turn out the
same as those commercialized outlets like Lim Chee Guan, Bee Cheng Hiang or Fragrance Bak Kwa.

The reason of me writing this post was because I was a bit pissed off. I have already tried making Bak Kwa
even before this article's recipe was published, using the oven, even with barbecuing, and the results was so off! It could be found on my previous post here. Not to mention the texture was not right too...

Notice the article's recipe above contained sugar as the main sweetening agent? My friend and I did a batch
with only sugar and no honey (the recipe I used have), the taste turned out really flat! Honey not only
sweetened the Bak Kwa but also provides flavor. (Different brand, different flower, different flavor also.)
Be careful as honey is sweeter than sugar too.

Another thing that would happen when you place the marinated meat into the oven would be the oozing out
of marination which I experienced many times before. To prevent that from happening, I suggested using the
dehydrator which I did not expect my friend to actually buy it  

The same dehydrator that could be used to make fruit and vegetable chips! It cost my friend about $250.
Basically he dehydrated the marinated meat for about an hour, about 65 degrees (high). (Also have low
and medium heat options.)  

After that, the marinated meat is smoked with his own-made smoker, made from a 3 tier Ikea rack,
covered by some board used for artwork. (Sushi bamboo racks to place the marinated meat on.)

(Top view) An opening for smoke to escape and and thermometer to determine the temperature
of the smoking.   

Just a tin with hickory wood/charcoal to produce the smoke.

Final outcome of the Bak Kwa! Do not use hickory wood but stick to charcoal instead as the smokey
flavor was overwhelming. It made the Bak Kwa taste like Lap Cheong (Chinese sausages) instead.
The Bak Kwa was also like a sponge, absorbing all the moisture from my mouth, making it dry.
Almost there!!!!
(Everything stated is based on personal opinion ; open to suggestions and advice)

Crystal Jade Jiang Nan - A Rainbow!

Visited Crystal Jade Jiang Nan at Vivocity with my friend and we shared these colourful xiao long bao!
Due to the broth contained inside which make it impossible to share, I only tried 4 flavors while my friend
tried the other 4. I started off with the vegetables (green), cheese (yellow), spicy beef (pink) and lastly the
foie gras (brown). It happened to be the order of my favourite too! The vegetable tasted clear and
refreshing, the cheese was savoury and salty while both the minced spicy beef and foie gras were tasteless
and disgusting. My friend had the original (white), spicy chicken (orange), prawn (pale orange) and truffle
(black). The ball in the middle was filled with custard. (Just to fill up the centre as the blankness would feel
awkward.) Of course we had ordered other dishes too but I decided to post only this since the rainbow
colours gave a lasting impression. 

28 Jan 2014

Secret Recipe Cakes - Take-away from JB

I missed out posting some Secret Recipe Cakes which I 'smuggled' (brought) back to Singapore when I
visited Johor Bahru City Square some time back. No harm bringing back some cakes for the next day's
breakfast right? Durian Cake with alternating layers of plain sponge and durian flavored 'paste'. I guessed
one of the trademark of Secret Recipe Cakes would be the excessive amount of cream (filling or coating).
 My other JB posts can be found here (Sushi King), here (KSL City Street Food) and here (Bear Paw Cafe)!

I bought this durian cheesecake for my mum since she has always been a fan of durian. I should have at
least taken a bite so that I could comment on it. Anyway, my mum ate it up without any complains or

26 Jan 2014

Gelateria Italia - 8 Flavors at a time!

Guys DO enjoy ice cream with waffles too! 6 guys, 8 flavors and 4 waffles! Don't ask me what flavors
they were since I was not the one picking them and I could not recall anyway. Thanks to one of my friend
who bought the groupon voucher to share the deal with the rest of us. I was once an addicted fan of
groupon deals too and the deals I bought were food related ones. I stopped myself from buying as some
of these deals were not worth it. Anyway, this outlet at Jem shopping mall only have 1 waffle machine.
Prepare to wait like us since they could only prepare your waffle one at a time LOL! 

Another day which I had the green tea and baileys! Too bad the green tea tasted
flat and disappointing and I was easily pleased with the mildly alcoholic and creamy
baileys. I would be back blogging since I have 2 weeks of holiday again!

15 Jan 2014

Bear Paw Cafe (Johor Bahru City Square) - Cute and yummy bear paws!

I was enjoying my 2 weeks long holiday break and that was when I decided to explore Johor Bahru for
more as well as cheaper food options. It was during my virgin trip to Johor Bahru City Square when I
came across this Bear Paw Cafe that sounds rather familiar. It didn't take too long for me to recall that I
actually tried it before from Taiwan's Night Market (the original source)! Singapore has already opened an
outlet not quite long ago at Scape, known as Bear Bites. Despite having more bun flavors, less choice of
patties and different variation of sauces, I did not try the set meal because it did not seems substantial to

Unlike Singapore, the set meal here at Bear Paw Cafe have a huge range of bubble tea to pick from! All
drinks were in (L) size so you either have to finish it or complain about being too full after drinking halfway.
I had the slightly sourish Assam Milk Tea while my friend choose the Brown Rice Milk Tea.  

It felt like a DIY burger where you can customise your own bun, patty and sauce. Just pray hard that your
combination turns out delicious. (Not to worry as everything would be yummy.) My friend went for Milk
bun + Fish patty + Tartar sauce while I opted for the Brown Sugar bun + Squid patty + Teriyaki sauce.

The mildly sweetened brown sugar bun was so soft and fluffy that I fell in love eating it! Was it Hong Kong
flour that gave the bun its texture? A bit like the Chinese version's kong bak bao but much fluffier! I went
to ask if they sell the bun itself but too bad they don't. The cashier even told me that I was not the first to
make such a request. Since the squid patty was slightly hard and dry, skip that and try the fish instead.  

The 3rd time I went to Johor Bahru City Square the following week (yes, yet another round for me), with
another friend. We ate at Nandos for our late lunch and in less than 3 hours, we were already seated
at Bear Paw Cafe waiting for our cute paws to be served! This time I went for Brown Rice Milk Tea
which I felt it tasted a bit like hojicha (roasted Japanese green tea) while my friend had the Mango Yakult.
He was too bloated and could only finish half a cup! What a waste... 

This time I had the Milk bun + Fish patty +Tartar sauce while my friend had the Whole Wheat bun + Fish
patty + Tartar sauce. It seems like the choices were pretty default and people tend to go for the same few
standard choices. Upon my first bite, I was simply impressed with the generous portion, crispy exterior and
moist interior of the fish patty! My friend strongly agreed as well as he continued munching on his paw. I
would definitely be back again!!! 

14 Jan 2014

Back to Johor Bahru (JB) - Reds Salon & KSL City Street Food

After my 1st trip to Johor Bahru City Square, I am back again with another friend (within the same week).
Awkwardness as a typical food blogger usually post pictures of food and not selfies! Since my friend's
priority was to colour his hair to cover up those greys, I decided to do mine too. There were like 5-6 hair
salons around and we randomly picked Reds Salon since my friend heard of that brand name before.
The salon seems to be rather packed and shorthanded that day and I spinned about on the chair while
waiting to be attended to. I regretted not taking a picture of myself while undergoing the dyeing process!
Not sure how fast it would take, but it was only like about 10 minutes or so before the hairstylist told me
that the colour had came out and would be ready to wash soon. I was like 'So fast'? 

Yay! My hair was done and tainted with light brown which was only more noticeable under direct light. I
had already began snapping away more selfie shots, only to capture a picture with my friend behind,
waiting for his hair to absorb the colour. O shit, I still got to wait after all as he still wanted a haircut after

Another shot which I used as my FB display picture LOL. My hair was towards the gold-light brown while
my friend went for the brownish-red. At least we both were different! 

With our newly colored hair, we paid 1.5 RM each and headed down to KSL city (shopping mall) to
shop! Not exactly to shop for clothes or stuffs but from a foodie mindset, I meant shopping for FOOD!
The mall was quite boring maybe because all my enthusiasm was focused on the pasar malam that was
located right beside KSL city. Thankfully by coincidence it was MONDAY that day and the pasar malam
only operates on Mondays!

I did not managed to capture much photos due to so much yummy food all around which posed quite a
distraction for someone hungry and it was drizzling too! I kept hoping that the drizzle would quickly stop so
that I could do my food shopping in peace. Thank God it stopped! Besides having cooked food, some
stalls also sell raw fishes, dried goods and fruits and vegetables, just like a normal marketplace. 

This was one yummy carrot cake stall which I bought my black carrot cake from. It was fried on the spot
and I waited only less than 10 minutes before having my packet of piping hot carrot cake.

Super fresh and undiluted sugar cane juice which was also available to quench our thirst! We bought a big
bottle to share and continued shopping after that. In the end, we had muah chee, a couple of different

kuehs, popiah, carrot cake, sugar cane drink, pancakes and roasted pork belly as snacks. After
purchasing a whole load of food, we went back into KSL, found a spot and stuffed ourselves bloated.
That was for the day and when could we come back again?    

13 Jan 2014

Sushi King (JB) - Virgin's trip 1st meal

My friend brought me to Johor Bahru to find food and I honestly say, it was my virgin trip to JB! I know it
is rather shocking, even to myself. Can you imagine a virgin trip to JB at the age of 23?! Did I just revealed
my age? Anyway, we did not exit Johor Bahru City Square to hunt for food as I was already amazed by
the countless unknown food outlet brands located all around. We as adventurous foodies, randomly
decided to dine at Sushi King since neither of us have heard nor tried it before. So many plates of
untouched sushi revolving around the conveyor belt endlessly prevented me from taking them. I wondered

how long they have been on this merry-go-round system...  

So not appetizing! My friend and I decided to order from the menu instead. 

Our sushi with collagen balls! I admit that I ordered this sushi just because of the word collagen. Not sure
what it was made of but in my mouth, it was just tasteless agar agar. Did I just get scammed?

My Unagi Set consists of a bowl of rice, miso soup and chawanmushi finally arrived! Really standard meal
with no comments about the quality at all, except for the really slow service. (Thankfully we were not in a

My friend's rice set with deep fried chicken karaage, jellyfish, salmon sashimi and a piece of grilled salmon.
That concludes my 1st meal in JB, but more to come!

11 Jan 2014

Prego Italian Restaurant - All that yumminess!

I guessed this would be my last post from year 2013! My 2014 food pictures would keep stacking up if I
don't do something... Anyway, just a little bombardment of really yummy food before I jump right to the
desserts part!

More yummy food shared among my other 3 friends and I!

Tiramisu would definitely appear in most of the Italian restaurants' menu and missing it out would not be an
option! Prego's version of tiramisu was slightly different and I was not used to this different style which
distinguished it from the rest. Besides not containing any alcohol, the ladyfinger sponges from this huge
squarish block were dipped briefly with coffee, so that it retained its firmness and not turned soggy. The
chocolate sauce at its base provided the necessary moisture to counter-balance the dryness. The only thing
that I disliked was being choked by the over generous amount of cocoa powder dusting on the surface.   

The chocolate mudpie was easily an attractive target among us. Who could resist such sinful indulgence of
both chocolate and ice cream in a single dessert? Although it looked a bit messy, it was still wiped clean by

9 Jan 2014

Creamier - Totally packed

A super late post which had been stranded in my draft section for quite a long time. Finally it
could be free from being a draft! I guessed it was my 3rd time patronising Creamier which was
located about 15 minutes walking distance from Tao Payoh MRT station. I raved about how
much I enjoyed my ice cream previously (when it was less cramped) but not this time due to the
place being overcrowded. All I wanted was to rush finish my ice cream and get the hell out of
that noisily cramped place. I picked the Thai Milk Tea ice cream (cone) that day and I loved
the way it kept melting constantly and I had to keep licking while turning the cone around. The
milky tea flavor was intense, and tasted exactly how the actual Thai milk tea was.  

After I did a tasting for the green tea flavor, I did not order because it tasted diluted and not intense
enough. O well, my friend got the green tea flavor anyway. It was more towards the refreshing light
taste instead of the usual intense matcha which I always loved. Maybe some people would prefer green
tea without the bitter aftertaste. (Click to view my 1st and and 2nd visit.)  

*Update* (29/04/14)

Another time which I went to have waffle and ice cream with my friend. The crowd
was still quite crazy....I guess they would be expanding sooner or later.

Cake Spade - Light but still heavy

I made a trip to Cake Spade after reading about their highly raved strawberry tofu cheesecake from other
food blogs. As I arrived an hour later than my other 2 friends, they had already finished their desserts. (So
no pictures of their Red Velvet Cheesecake and Hummingbird Cake.) As their Strawberry Tofu
Cheesecake was not available that day, 
I opted for its almost similar variation which was the Peach Tofu
Cheesecake with a digestive base. Served on a tart pan, I stared at the wobbly layer of neon orange jelly
that encased a couple of peach slices and went 'Cool'! 
Maybe my taste buds failed me that day as the jelly
tasted like mandarin orange flavor. I dug into the a-bit-shiny tofu textured cheesecake, claimed to have no
actual tofu added and I really loved it! The fact that I ate both the jelly and cheesecake elements
separately, also unknowingly proofed that they were great on its own. Another interesting fact was that
despite feeling 'light' during the eating process, the cheesecake was actually really filling. It was still
cheesecake after all!

7 Jan 2014

Yonehachi - Sticky rice in Japanese cuisine?

Located at Takashimaya basement, clustered with many food booth and squeezing through the streaming
flow of people, I dragged my friend along to try Yonehachi which caught my attention some time ago.
The attractive range of lightly-toned colourful sticky rice tightened into capsules was an unusual sight in
Singapore. After ordering our set with the chosen type of rice, we waited like forever before being
served. The presentation was so not appealing and only the Okowa was worth the mention. 

I tried the Chicken Teriyaki Set and topped up an additional $1.00 for the scallop Okowa. The set meal
itself was purely a disappointment but I guessed the sticky glutinous rice was supposed to be the highlight.
How often do you get to see sticky glutinous rice appearing in a Japanese outlet's menu? Although the
scallop Okowa was lightly salted and tasty, it had only 2-3 miserable pieces of thinly sliced scallop on it. 

My friend had the Shio Saba Set with red bean Okowa (original rice). His original rice came with a good
amount of red beans unlike my pathetic scallops. Slightly less flavorful but I guessed I felt a very mild tinge
of sweetness in there.    

6 Jan 2014

Rive Gauche Patisserie - X'mas Potluck 2013 at Vivocity Skypark

Let me clear up my 2013 X'mas post before updating the rest......of the 2013 posts still. Despite enjoying
my school holidays right now, my posts are still lagging behind! By the way, 'Noel' on that chocolate
logcake is French for Merry Christmas as none of us is called Noel. Just a typical chocolate sponge spread
with chocolate cream, rolled up into a log and coated with slightly gooey chocolate ganache. My friend
bought it just for 'yi shi' (symbolic) only as Christmas always comes with a log cake right? Even if it was
just a mini one. 

Another cake we shared was the Cheesecake crumbles which came in a rounded looking bowl. Nothing
impressive to me as it was just creamy vanilla-tasting cheesecake mousse sprinkled with crumbles on top.
Maybe after being exposed to air for too long, the crumbles were kind of moist.

The food that my friends and I brought for our potluck picnic at Vivocity Skypark. It was quite enjoyable
as we spend our entire evening till nightfall over there, chatting and making a lot of noise, especially
laughter. The food were dam filling!

A group shot before ending this post! Too dark to capture any good shots already...  

4 Jan 2014

Homemade meat jerky! Bak Kwa experiment for Chinese New Year!

My very 1st post for the year 2014 and I will be blogging about my homemade meat jerky process! I still
have a couple of 2013 posts which I have yet to update but this post was the priority since Chinese New
Year is approaching! My 3rd time experimenting with the seasoning quantity before finally settling with the
one below. (Note: Adjusted based on my personal preference!)

The recipe I modified into:

Pork                    300g       (A bit fattier would be better)
Sugar                     3 tbs
Honey                    3 tbs     (I think malt syrup would be better, more caramelised flavor.)
Fish Sauce           1.5 tbs
Sweet Wine            2 tbs    (I used a dessert wine)
Dark Soy Sauce   1/2 tbs
Char Siew Sauce     1 tbs   (Removed after 3rd batch)
Five Spice            1/2 tbs
Sesame Oil           1/2 tbs   (Removed after 3rd batch)

If anyone knows of any better tried-and-tested-before recipe, care to share with me so I could try?
I knew it would not be so easy to get close to the exact taste of Bak Kwa, if not everyone would be making
their own already. 

The recipe would be for 300g of meat and I did X2 the recipe for 600g of marinated minced pork, beef
and chicken. Best if you could add more fats into your minced meat as mine were all too lean! After
marinating the meat overnight in the chiller, the minced chicken was a bit watery while minced beef
was still rather firm. Pork was always in-between.  

I started off by portioning the meat into 100g - 110g so that all the jerky would be about the same size.
(Too large piece would be difficult to flip over and would easily break apart.) I spread the minced meat
onto an aluminium sheet, place a cling wrap over and using a rolling pin, flatten the meat evenly. About
2mm thickness for mine.

After spreading evenly on the aluminium, either you could directly bbq the meat or place it into the oven to
bake fully. I did half-half. About 200 degrees in the oven for 10-15 mins to firm up the meat before
transferring to the BBQ pit to barbecue! I guessed that it was normal for the marination to leak out of the
marinated meat during the baking process? Any ideas?  

Picture of myself barbecuing the meat jerky!

Another selfie shot with my friend's barbecue pit! Thanks Glenn for letting me use his house to barbecue!   

The texture was way too smooth to be Bak Kwa and it looked more like ham instead.

My friend did the baking to firm up the minced meat before I barbecued them. Kept flipping and
barbecuing piece by piece as his oven could only bake a piece at a time. 

Glazed with honey when the meat was about to be done with a bit of charred parts appearing. Make sure
the honey dries slightly or it would end up sticky.

Done! Pork or beef ??

Another shot with only 2 pieces...

Some of the minced chicken ended up like this, all broken apart because it was too soft to flip with tongs.

Done with all the 1.2kg of beef and pork which took about 5 hours...?

Final conclusion:

Beef - Jerky have quite a strong beefy taste and smell which could be quite unpleasant.
          The meat was rather firm but soft and tender.
          Easy to handle while baking and barbecuing.
          Easiest to dry up and discolour after a few days in the fridge  

Chicken - Became watery/mushy after marination and broke apart easily.
                Tasted a bit like satay / chicken steak. 

Pork - Texture a bit rubbery after a few days in the fridge.
           More suitable due to having more fats (although mine still not enough)
All - Unusual smell and taste, something like hoisin sauce detected.
        The texture too smooth to be Bak Kwa.
        Overall taste still negative to me.