It Is Not Only About Beautiful Picture

When people looking for a review, what are they really looking for?

Cool places, beautifully plated food, amazing friendliness from staffs/owner, the actual taste of the food?

There are millions, that need to be considered to write a proper review, be it about food, book, cafe, movies, anything.

There are a lot of thoughts and process to make it, and to just snap some instafriendly picture and throw some ‘Good Food’, ‘Bad Food’, ‘Lousy’ on it, clearly not do any justice for all of us. It was not a good review for the reader and clearly not a valuable input for the business. If you believe that, they are not a to your liking, you can try to describe it over, is it overcooked, is it too salty, is it too spicy, the wait staff is not attentive, etc. Do not just left it in one liner and put the hashtag #FoodBlogger on your post.

You aren’t one.

Or, at least, not yet one.

Because simply ‘Good Food’ is never good enough. Let’s say you order a spaghetti bolognese, you can try to say “the pasta cooked perfectly, the sauce was flavorful, you can totally taste the tomato, although I would prefer it with a little bit of salt to enhance it more. All in all, it was a pleasant meal.”  

With a more elaborate review you can tell your reader how is your palate, but still giving out general information that should be the standard, like an al dente pasta, not hard like it barely cooked or a mush that can be smashed with your fork, but it has to give a resistance when you bite it. That is a good al dente pasta.

What I feel with a descriptive post about food is to built a relationship between you and the reader. With a more detailed post, the reader will get your tastebuds better and they will find whose taste suits who. Because food is surely an unique fields, everybody has their own taste profile. What greats for me might not suit your liking, and vice versa. That is why with a specific information we can give a more recomendation about food and places we loved.

This is not exclusively for a blogger or food writer that have their specific website. But I believe this is applicable even on Instagram or restaurant review site such as Zomato and such. I encourage you to read more cookbooks, or watch cooking show, a lot of cooking shows. It will helps to enrich us with a vocabulary to describing foods. Try watch Top Chef or Chef’s Table to get a chef’s perspective. For me, those things give me more appreciation on the food I ate.  

Beautiful picture is cool, informative review is awesome, both of them together is amazing, just like ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony, side by side on my piano keyboard, oh why don’t we. *high five if you got this song references.

I write this piece in an attempt to shake the rustiness of my already lacking keyboard skill, as well as something that has been on my mind after I saw some review on the food service apps as well as #FoodBlogger at Instagram.

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Belitong Island – Not Just a Rainbow Troops Island

(or Ahok)

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I have the opportunity to visit the island of Belitong in the beginning of the month. As a small island near the island of Bangka, which was my grandparents from my mother side’s hometown, the location is made famous by the movie Rainbow Troops or Laskar Pelangi in the local language. While now it’s also known as the hometown of Ahok or Mr. Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, the Jakarta Governors. During my stay there, I was accompanied by a local guide, natives of the island. That way, we got to explore the local delicacies, not that Belitung is swarmed with one, but at least we can get around the more touristy spot and go straight to where the locals went.

img_8285Being a small island, Belitung also has a few smaller island surrounding it. Well, it’s basically like that all around Indonesia, it’s like an island-ception. But oh boy, the beaches was fantastical. Even in the ‘dirtier’ area of the beaches it still has the magical white sand and clear water. I am almost tempted to do a Baywatch scene by emerging from the sea water and walks slowly towards the beach. Since Belitung is known as a tin producing island, there were also some old mines that transformed into a travel destination. The underwater ecosystem of Belitung is also one of a kind. They have magnificent corals and fishes. Too bad I am not a diver myself, so I can’t really tell you how it is.

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What I can tell you is the food over there is amazing.

Let me repeat, one more time.

UH MAY ZING!

From a merely grilled fish into a succulent roast pork, to a relish martabak. they have it all. For the record, I am not a seafood eater, but they have the freshest produce anyone can offer. I can testify to that since I got bad itches when I ate a bad seafood. I am itch free over there. They have a fish exclusive to the island called ‘Ilak’ this fish has a flaky texture and not a strong fishy smell. It’s perfect for grilling with a simple Soy Sauce or special spices by the restaurant. Another delicacy for a seafood lover is the crabs, especially the rajungan. Again, I can only say what my brothers said, it was the best rajungan he ever had, it’s so full of meat and sweet, and you can believe him since he is such a diva for food. Another recommendation called gangan. a sort of fish head soup cooked with pineapple so it gives that fresh vibrant that goes well with the island feeling. img_8348

img_8307For those that not a seafood person, is the noodles. I spent 4 days 3 nights, and I had like five noodle meals. The noodle they served here consisting one bowl of noodle with minced pork and beansprouts, and another bowl of fishball and ‘cakien’-some sort of fishcake. The funny thing here, all the noodle seller is open for business in different time, it’s like they saying to have noodle all day long with variety because every store has their own unique taste. If you not eating pork, you can ask for no meat. Or you can just go to the famous Bakmi Atep for their prawn broth noodle. img_8451

img_8456As millennials as I can be, I have the need to get coffee. The famous coffee shop in the island is Kong Djie Coffee, it is an old school coffee shop, a kopitiam, to be exact. it establishes during the 40’s, with their original store still standing strong and a bunch of franchise store opening up all around the island with a younger vibe. This original store is the perfect place to have your morning fix since the original store served some snacks such as fried banana and assorted fritters, as well as traditional cakes provided by other small business. Just perfect, a grass root business model, small business being helped by another small but more established business. img_8447

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Another highlight is their martabak, a bit similar to Bangka style martabak, they attract you with the smell of butter melting on the surface of hot martabak. That greasy glossy treasure is calling you like an ant towards sugar. During my stay there, I haven’t found one bad martabak, even the worst is still acceptable.img_8333 When Bangka and Belitung share a similar martabak, their roast pork is completely different. What I can tell you is the food over there, is amazing If Bangka style is heavier on the spices, Belitong have a more gentle taste with a crispier skin. Me personally prefer the Bangka style, but I also won’t say no for Belitong style. To quote a friend of mine, ‘Pork is never a mistake!’

img_8343Belitung is not only an island about Rainbow Troops, this is a nice place to chill and have a nice beach moment. Not to mention that it is so affordable, sure the infrastructure is not as good as Bali or Lombok, but there are a lot of hidden gems that can still be found if you willing to explore the island. If you wanted to go for a chill vacation, I suggest you consider Belitung for your destinations.img_8312img_8314img_8321img_8339img_8342img_8353img_8358img_8361img_8381img_8386img_8387img_8418img_8439img_8432img_8466

Chef’s Table

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Watching a chef work in a kitchen is like watching a dancer on stage. The good one can move so gracefully and amaze us with their slightest movements. That’s why I always love to watch those cooking show with good chefs in it. The magic of that is carried on when I went to At-Sunrice, where I get to see some of the instructors move so swiftly during demo and my sad attempt to duplicate it during hands on.

Nowadays, there is a lot of restaurant offering a concept where customer can see what happens in the kitchen, how the cooks prepare the order that keep coming from that ticket machine, which at times is a nightmare. It’s fun inside this kitchen, of course the demand is higher for the kitchen staff because customer can see and we need to be extra careful and more hygienic compared to our closed kitchen cousins. But, you won’t get shouted in an open kitchen because it’s just bad for the business. To be seen screaming to a cook, I don’t know if it get the customer appetite going. It doesn’t mean that we don’t get smacked tho, it just come in a nicer package of less shouting. 😛

I know a concept that can give people more satisfaction, instead of just watching the cooks from over the counter, why don’t get a table inside the kitchen. This amazing concept is known as chef’s table. This is normally used by chefs to offer a tasting menu for their new creations, of course, it cost a little bit more than the average dining fee, but to be able to taste a new dish and get a one of a kind experiences eating in the midst of a busy hustling kitchen is one of a kind. To top that, we get to see the beautiful movement of a well-trained chef on the stage of their own.

For me there is a pleasure in watching a swift move of a chef started from the misé en place, as simple as slicing onion or debone a chicken, to the cooking process, when they flawlessly stir the pan and pot, until the final process of plating all the element of the dish into a beautiful plate to please the eyes first before they kill us with the burst of flavour. It’s always intriguing to see what inspire all the great mind of the chefs when they plan all the menu.

My current addiction now is actually a Netflix series called Chef’s Table. Which they introduce us to a number of amazing chefs all around the world, telling the stories of their inspirations as well as an opinion from a well-known culinary figure n the area. If you ever wanted to know what goes behind all the crazy dishes in the famous restaurant, I highly recommend this series. This series is not like you every other culinary show, it is seriously mind blowing.

Now if you excuse me, I need to watch more episode of it and feel bad about myself even more.

Stars for the Little Red Dot

Michelin just held an event in Singapore to give out some stars to Singapore culinary establishment. The recipient are the sorts like Joel Robuchon, Jaan, Les Amis, Cut, and some others big names in the industry, the full list can be seen here.

Well, it is a no brainer for me that some of the big names getting their star from the lovable bibman. What exciting is some of the local hawker place also getting the recognition. For me Singapore culinary scene is not just about the fancy fine dining or high place restaurant but the heart of it is the tremendous amount of local hawker delicacy. From the carrot cake to chicken rice, to bak chor mee, everything is a delish. just like Indonesian with their fried rice and satay, Singaporean also have their preferences for their favourite hawker place.

That shown because no matter where you go, every big hawker center seems to have that one stall that need to be queued for at least 30 mins. It actually mind boggling how the fast paced Singaporean willing to queue for a food. It’s like a unsaid rules, “if got queue, confirm good one.” and basically I just salute anyone that willing to wait for more than 15 mins for the food. I can go mad because of the waiting.

The thing that can be learn from this for those who wanted to open up new food business is that you don’t need to go way overboard with your business, yes it is nice to dream big, but it will be nicer to be realistic. Keep that big dream to your long term goals and focusing small first. *of course if you have all the requirement to go big, go ahead* Just make sure that you are 100% behind your idea and have the drive to both run the business and beat the rent.

Start out at a hawker doesn’t mean that you are less than the others, there’s prove with two establishment awarded in the first Michelin Guide for Singapore.

Let’s get cooking guys!

Fat Cat Ice Cream Bar

I am craving for milkshake.

A good thick creamy fatty milkshake.

So I decided to go to Fatcat Ice Cream Bar, with the assumption and full of hope that they will serve a nice milkshake with their home churn ice cream. Too bad, they don’t have milkshake on the menu.

BUT

they have an amazing Ice Cream.

I repeat

AMAZING ICE CREAM

My sadness for not having a milkshake is gone when I have a bite on their ice cream. After I found out that they don’t have milkshake on the menu, I decided to get their waffle instead. Well, what can help you to fix a broken heart other than a nice crisp fluffy waffle right? I ordered the Brown Butter Original Waffle with two scoops of ice cream, Smoked Oolong Tea and Smoked Chocolate. Don’t judge me, I am heartbroken for not having my milkshake okay!

The waffle is unbelievably great, fluffy and crispy, and not overly sweet. This is just perfect to go with their ice cream, which full of flavour. It’s like a flavour burst in my mouth. You know what the best part is, they serve it with a salted caramel sauce around the plate and a sprinkle of roasted herbs! It’s so good I want to cry.

The Ice Cream is just as amazing, both has a strong smoky flavour, but not overpowering the actual taste. I can still taste both the chocolate and the oolong flavour in my ice cream. Thing just get better when you get a bite on that soft, flavourful ice cream with the fluffy waffle and a bit savoury touch from the salted caramel. It’s like a party in your mouth. A party that you sure want to go to.

The place itself is this cute hipster-ish place, on the east part of Singapore, Bedok North Avenue 2 to be exact. What I like from this place is they have a small area that feel more intimate and homey. this is just a perfect place to go when you crave for some good ice cream. They also have quite a fun flavour like a butter beer and such.

Definitely worth a visit for this amazingly hot Singapore weather!

This Fatso love this Fat Cat!

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Fat Cat Ice Cream Bar
Blk 416 Bedok North Ave. 2

Percolate Coffee

Coffee of the East

Yes, I just found out that I have an accessible coffee place near my place just when I am about to leave the country.

Marvellous.

Anyway,

I find this cool coffee place in the east part of Singapore, located in Bedok North Road 3, Percolate Coffee is one of the most comfortable coffee place I ever been into. They serve not only nice conventional coffee, they also has quite a couple interesting menu. The first time I went there, I have their sparkling coffee, yep, Sparkling. For my poor coffee palate, this is a new thing for me. To have a little bit of kick with the caffeine dose is dope!

IMG_7212Other than coffee they also have some snacks to go with. I’ve tried two of their menu so far, one was a Tom Yum Chicken Ciabatta and a Pandan Kaya Croissant. I love the Tom Yum Chicken Ciabatta! The mixture of that tom yum mayo in the soft tender chicken is amazing. on the other hand, the Pandan Kaya Croissant is not really hit the spot for me. The filling is nice, not overly sweet, but the croissant texture is not flaky enough, I feel like eating a bread instead.IMG_7211 

IMG_7238The ambience of the shop is nice, a little cool spot to sit back with a book or a nice chat with a good friend. To give a more added value, the staff over there is very helpful and really have the initiative. other than that they have a great playlist. You just can’t beat a sweet place with a good coffee and lovely music.

Too bad I find this place too late, but it’s better late than never, no?IMG_7213.JPG

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Percolate Coffee
136 Bedok North Avenue 3 #01-152

Singapore

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Not your ordinary hipster coffee shop

Since I am always looking for a place to laze around with my laptop and maybe do some reading or writing, I googled and asked my friends about nice spot here in the little red dot. During that research time, I found this cool hipster-ish industrial look coffee shop and according to the experience people wrote on the internet and they cool instagram page, I decided to give it a go.

IMG_6941I went there on Saturday afternoon, so I was actually pretty impressed that I can still get a seat there remembering how savage Singaporeans can be in chopping seats, but apparently CSHH has quite a spacious area both indoors and outdoors and I managed to get one indoors to avoid the scorching heat of Singapore. I sat on the communal table next to the cashier, so I can see the staff preparing the order and such.

IMG_6948Since I came before having my lunch, I decided to get some meals. Yes, other than coffee they also serves simple western meals. I decided to go with their Papa Pork Burger, a pork patty grilled and placed between a charcoal bun and pineapple relish. The patty was fine, and the bun was crisp as well. The down side for me is their pineapple relish, I find it a bit too sweet.

IMG_6947For the coffee, they have quite a variety, I am not that knowledgeable yet, but I order the Nitro Black Matter and man, it is strong. They also offer three variant home brew for those who like their coffee bright, balanced, and bold. If you are not into coffee they have other drinks as well such as tea and lemonades. They also served desserts to go with the coffee as well.

IMG_6942The main event of my trip is not the coffee if I may say, but it is the Sea Salt Gula Melaka Ice Cream I had after my burger. I’ve been eyeing the menu since I come in and placed my order, but I am reluctant to order it. After I am done with my burger, I decided to have it and boy it is a right choice. I love it until the very little bit. The saltines is really complimenting the fragrance sweetness of the gula melaka flavor. When I have a bite of it, All the heat just evaporates away and I can hear the angels sing.

IMG_6952What they have in stores besides the coffee shop itself, is they have like a little coffee academy on the small room in the back and they have this giant room for roasting coffee. I am not so sure, but I think they have like an art space or something in the second floor as well.

All in all, this is the place that I will go for a relaxing and have a chat with my friends. If you love your coffee you might love this place as well. They have a nice menu with instagramable locations.

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Chye Seng Huat Hardware, cshhcoffee.com – 150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore

Necessary Provisions

When you look for someplace to eat, sometimes you just want that hole in the wall place that not to fancy. I actually have no idea where this place were, not until my friend got allocated there for his apprenticeship. Placed on the north part of Singapore in the heart of old school atas place of Bukit Timah, Necessary Provisions gives you what really necessary in life; good food, good coffee, lovely ambience.

The menu they offer actually is not much, but it sure varied from pasta, burger, salad, even fried rice! I have tried their gyutan don, sambal fried rice, and pork burger, which all on point. I especially love the pork burger with a juicy patty in between the crusty bread, it just perfect for a meal. Their rice selection also not bad, even the gyutan don is okay, their sambal fried rice is giving me a bit taste of home.

Since it has a lovely atmosphere, you might want to come there just to sit around, reading book, or writing stuff. While you do what you love, they can give you a nice snacks such as a bread and dip, eggplant chips, and such. I’ve had the eggplant chips that they fried using a beer batter and served with miso aioli, it is quite a nice snacks to nibble on. Bread and dip on the other hand, even the dip is nice, I find the bread a bit too stale, maybe I got them at the bad day.

Necessary Provisions also serve a home brew coffee and tea, as well as home brew beer! I love how they give a tremendous service towards the customer. maybe since it is a little shop, around 30 seater full house, It gave the staff a bit more room to give the extra attention for the customer.

If you wanted to go somewhere not mainstream and doesn’t mind the travel, Necessary Provisions is the place for you to go!

Necessary Provisions – 21 Eng Kong Terrace.

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Culinary Student Journal, Week 23

Let’s talk about flavour

I am by no means having a superior palate compared to anybody else. But since i love to eat, especially for good food, just like anybody else, I try to balance all the spices and try to keep the seasoning as simple as possible. I am not against using a lot of spices, as long as it will produce a great food, I will always be on your team.

What I want to talk about is when you cooking something, I assume you want to have a great outcome. whether it just cooking a simple instant noodle, a stir fry vegetables, to a fancy steak and such. to achieve that I believe we have to keep all the flavour profile in balance in order to showing the real characteristic of the dish you wanted to show. Yes, we when we cook we might want to put our own twist and such, but we have to remember that we need to achieve the flavour of original dish.

Confused? Yea, me as well. Let’s talk example.

Let’s say we are making tiramisu, a light Italian classic with a combination of coffee and liquor that mixed with the light characteristic of a mascarpone cheese. For me, a good tiramisu should have a balanced ratio between the liquor, the bitterness of the espresso, and some sweetness from the ladyfinger. I won’t be satisfied to get a tiramisu that way too sweet nor bitter, as well as a heavily drunken tiramisu due to the massive amount of booze.

I once asked a friend why he make a tiramisu with a lot of liquor, and he said because I like to drink. For me that is stupid, if you really want to drink, just go buy a bottle and drink. you don’t have to go all the trouble by making a tiramisu for it. I know how it feels to love a flavour, I had done

eating parmesan cheese with steamed rice as well with instant noodle.

Weird?

Yeah, I know. But it is so good, tho.

Why I decide to write about this?

Because I found out that nowadays people tend to overuse an ingredients, like truffle oil anything, salted egg anything. Again, I am not saying it is wrong to do that. It is all an experiment of what goes well with what, but let’s just make sure that we don’t lose the balanced flavour that makes a dish beautiful.

I am not saying they who did that wrong, it’s just like a musician experimenting with a lot of sound to create music, and just like any other experiments some might works and some not. Just let’s be open for the failure and not being a stubborn that can’t receive a criticism. A flavour is again personal to everyone and everybody is entitled to their opinion as well as their own palate.

I only wish that I can assemble a nice tasty dish, just like a great composer able to mesmerise the listener with their beautiful music. To quote one of my chef instructor, Martin Yeo, ‘Cooking is similar to music, there are countless ways to mix and match it to make it your very own culinary masterpiece’

Warmth The Belly, Warmth The Heart.

I’ve ran into this commercial by Tiger Beer Singapore from instagram, and today I youtube the whole video. The campaign is about preserving the street food that most of the people has taking it for granted. One of the video is about a third generation of popiah skin maker, that wanted to continuing what his father and grandfather has done since 1930s. there is one more video about a Char Kway Teow stall owner that been asked what makes his mee is different with others, he said this

“No two sets of handwriting are the same, and like handwriting the taste can’t be replicated.”

and to reach that level, he put so much effort and hardwork to what he did. He start his day as early as 3 AM in the morning, to prepare selling at 6 AM. He said, he will do this as long as he can do it. Once he feel like he start to slowing down, then he will know it is the time to stop.

On another video about an uncle that sell Hokkien Mee, he said something like this,

“In life, if you have clothes to wear, food to eat, things to do, and you are healthy, that’s good.”

yet, another motivation from a 73 years old uncle. He has gone through the hardships during his youth until he can reach the point where he is right now. Yes, for others he might be just another uncle selling hokkien mee at hawker center, but It is all back to our perspective and how we can appreciate what we have.

Seeing this video is actually giving me motivation to keep going. Yes, sometimes it will get tiring and depressing, but the road to a nice place mostly are bumpy and windy, right? Sure there are roads that already paved and directed, but unfortunately that things only happen for certain people.

 

I am lucky to found these videos, these are the kind of food I love to eat. Something warmth, something soulful (and occasional McDonalds). These videos also give me a second thought about food. Yes it is nice to have a beautiful plate to please the eyes, but it also not a wrong thing to have something that warmth both the stomach and the heart.

Anyway, let’s start to be grateful and stop taking things for granted.

 

You can check the video in here, here, and here.