Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, Keppel Road

 T'was a slightly rainy evening. What better time to enjoy some piping hot bak kut teh? To PSA Building we went! (there is another Ya Hua outlet on Havelock Rd). There were already quite a number of occupied tables, but were promptly attended to when we sat down.

 This place is quite 'well-known' in the bak kut teh circle in Singapore, so the popularity speaks for itself. Interestingly lots of regulars leave their personal can of tea leaves in the back so they can enjoy their own tea with their teh (kinda like how you can leave your own wine in some European restaurants).

 Service was fast, and before we could warm our seats the you tiao flew onto our table.

 As a pre-dinner shnack, soaking you tiao in the 'teh' is one of the simple pleasures in life.
 Pork ribs were good - I had the leaner version, which had a tolerable amount of fat on it. Very soft and easily fell off the bone, full of flavour from the peppery soup. Best enjoyed with lots of dark soy sauce and fresh red chillis!

 I had the normal pork ribs - most people go for the lean one which has more size-to-meat ratio. Some people find $6-$7 to be expensive for 3 pieces of meat which is true I suppose. But to me the real gem is the soup which is free flow!

{ Normal Pork Ribs ($6) / Lean Pork Ribs ($7) }

 The soup was excellent - all 4 bowls of it (unlimited top-ups FTW), and I daresay it is quite difficult now for me to go back to the Malaysian version of this (gasp! am I... am I becoming Singaporean?!!?). The peppery, garlicky (and I guess cholesterol-laden) goodness of this is just so heart- and belly-warming.

 Had 4 bowls of soup as well. You know it's good when the heat from the soup and the pepper burns your throat and yet while fighting the cinders in your belly you defiantly ask for top ups.

{ Sides are around $2 }

 We also ordered sides of braised peanuts and salted vegie. Pretty standard stuff but adds to a 'balanced' (ha) meal. Overall, it was a satisfying and quick meal.

 I guess the popularity and 'brand name' of this place speaks for itself, though there has been more and more negative reviews as of late. To be honest though I wouldn't necessarily rank this higher or lower than other good BKTs in Singapore. The location is only ideal if you live nearby and you drive, if you're in a more central location I'd probably go to Song Fa @ clarke quay instead any time!

HGW Link (83% recommended at time of writing) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random Babi Guling, Kerobokan Bali

 First thing people think about when mentioning food in Bali is Babi Guling. Guling (interestingly translated to bolsters from Google ...) I would more intelligently guess refers to how to how the pig is rolled / rotated when roasting. Babi Guling as a whole just means roast pork, which is similiar to siew yoke, 烧猪, what have you.

There's an almost unanimously agreed opinion that the best Babi Guling in Bali is up north in Ubud, and in particular at a warung (stall) called Ibu Oka apparently endorsed by Sir A. Bourdain himself. Well I've also read that there's nothing too special about it, and also because we didn't wanna ride 45 minutes up there just to eat.

 We asked the front desk where's the nearest local / small babi guling where locals but probably not tourists will go. We were redirected to a spot 20 minutes walk away from our resort and off we went!

Was a little puzzled when served this - I guess as compared to ordering it in a proper restaurant where they serve you one entire portion of babi guling by itself as a dish, ordering it here gets you a plate of assorted pig stuff with veges, onions and soup, kinda like a complete meal in itself.

 { Babi Guling on a deceptively small plate (~$2) }

 The satay itself was tough, sweet and spicy but rather flavourful. There were also two types of pork chunks on the plate, both tasted salty and very tough - like jerky. There's also assorted offal which I absolutely cannot identify, fried to oblivion and crispy like a cracker, but very very yum! And of course, the crown jewel is the skin itself, crispy, fatty and awesome with the chilli. Also came with vegies, onions, soup, rice, and all for just about $2.

 The soup itself was drowned in oil but thick in porky goodness and spices. A great simple meal though to be honest my jaw was really aching chewing all the jerk. While I ponder how the Ibu Oka one might taste like instead, I felt proud to taste it done the way the locals enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Seafood @ Bali 21 Cafe, Jimbaran Bali

 What's a trip to Bali without a seafood dinner at sunset? We decided to wind down at Jimbaran for some seafood and beer after a sweaty trek around Uluwatu.

 Ah, the legendary highway-robbery seafood by the beach! 

We had planned to visit Lia's Cafe (generally known as the best place along the beach in terms of price and food) but due to lack of proper directions and maps we couldn't find the place. And the agent had conveniently booked a table for us at Bali 21 Cafe. Thinking it was yet another tourist trap, naturally we were a little pissed off, but after looking at the view, the table, and the pricing we were pretty sold!

 Well you have to admit, the view was pretty sweet :)

Now the seafood itself was quite uninspiring and it's not cheap either - again it's Singapore pricing or maybe even slightly more expensive. Every type of seafood has a published price per kg, pick what and how much you want (most are frozen - fresh ones are EXPENSIVE), and how you want it cooked. Usually comes with free flow rice, veg and soft drinks as well.

Some places may offer sets at a predetermined price, but try not to order anything with lobster because it's insanely pricy (~$40-50 per kg?) and you end up paying for crayfish and not lobster.

{ Garlic Butter Squid 400g (110,000 rp / $15 per kg) }
 Garlic butter squid was gooooooood, but no thanks to the squid. I mean, anything doused in garlic butter would be awesome.

 The squid was cooked nicely too, not too rubbery nor slimy. We couldn't resist adding more lashings of garlic from the 'standard' pot of condiments. Good stuff!

{ Balinese BBQ Mussels 500g (70,000 rp / $9.80 per kg) }
 Balinese BBQ is kinda strange - it looks and tastes almost like bland tomato puree. These weren't all that great but hey at least the mussels here are bigger than those at Brussel Sprouts.

 Not very impressed by these. The 'Balinese' sauce looks spicy, but actually isn't!

{ Balinese BBQ Fish 600g (160,000 rp / $22 per kg}
 Fish looks pretty impressive! And it wasn't inundated in that wet strange sauce they call Balinese BBQ. Unfortunately it looks better than it tastes, relatively bland, poorly scaled, and the bad thing is that you need to eat it fast before it cools down and the meat and skin becomes chewy. But how can you eat it fast when you're watching the sunset and the epic corn seller below??!?!!

 I quite enjoyed the fish, but only with the added condiments of chilli and garlic. 

 I think the best tip I can give anyone is to sit down, place your order, have your beer, but ask them to serve the food only after sunset. That way your BBQ stuff won't cool down while you're busy taking photos and watching the sea. Oh well! While the food was clearly nothing great, the experience was well worth it.

 Most importantly, if you are picking your own seafood - then you should know what you are paying for. I think a lot of people don't fully realize how much little bits of everything add up, so go easy at the start. It is easy to be full on not a lot of seafood if you are eating with rice and veg. So you can always top up your seafood order if necessary. Sure you're on holiday and you should enjoy the spread, but do it wisely so your enjoyment of Jimbaran isn't affected by the bill :)

Ayam Penyet @ Malioboro, Bali

 Starving upon reaching Bali, the first agenda was to hunt down some late lunch. We decided to leave the fate of our tummies to our villa representatives who greeted us at the airport.

 "Tourist trap!" was the first comment we murmured when the agent told us they were bringing us to a 'famous' Ayam Penyet place that tourists always ask to go. Sounds like a whole pile of baloney to me!

 And how right we were when we arrived, whole bunch of chartered vans parked outside, nobody but chinese (Singaporeans probably) eating inside. We gave a silent sigh and looked at the menu anyway.

 But honestly, this Ayam Penyet was pretty damn tasty. Never would I have imagined salted egg sauce would go with fried chicken (recommended by the waiter), but hey, this plate of chicken here easily owns most random Ayam Penyets in Singapore. Chicken fried to oblivion till the bones are edible, but still strangely juicy and crispy, not the best dish for your heart but whatever!

 I was very skeptical about this initially, and even more so when it landed on our table looking like that! But it tastes waay better than it looks. The chicken was still crispy underneath the deluge of salted egg sauce,  and the meat easily fell off the bone. I really liked this take on regular familiar ayam penyet.

{ Ayam Presto Telur Asin (64,000 rp / $9) }
Ayam Penyet with Salted Egg sauce
 Unfortunately everything else went downhill from there. The kang kong tasted very undercooked, the sauce at the bottom was extremely salty, and the sambal chilli was extremely tasteless (and only mildly spicy IMO). Even the chilli in the bottle by the side was a little tasteless. After tasting Ayam Penyet chilli in Singapore you'd expect the chilli in Indonesia to be absolute hellfire.

 The Kangkong was a bit too raw for our liking, probably could be better if left in the pan for about 3 minutes longer with the sambal stirred through, rather than piled atop like that.

{ Plecing Kangkung (18,000 rp / $2.50) }
Kangkung with Sambal
 And this tahu telur aka weird egg thingy - wasssnnn'tttttt quite what we expected. While we knew it was tofu and egg, we couldn't taste where the tofu began and the egg ended, and drizzled in this strange sweet, salty peanut sauce. Texture was as you'd expect, soft eggy / tofu-ey / melty. Well I guess it's an acquired taste!

 Our waiter assured us this tofu egg dish was yummy, but we shouldn't have listened lol. The sauce is too sweet and there is too much damn sauce! Would have actually preferred a claypot rendition with the savoury eggy sauce.

{ Tahu Telor (31,000 rp / $4.30) }
Fried beancurd with egg
 After a bit research back home, turns out this place really is rather popular and well known for their chicken. Still can't stop the place from looking ultra dubious though. Truth be told, the price wasn't that expensive. It's still slightly cheaper than Singapore, but of course if you expect to come to Bali and pay $2 for lunch you'll be disappointed anyway.

 The signature ayam penyet is good, but the other dishes don't quite work for us. But hey, never know till you try right?

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