Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kkongdon Korean Barbeque @ Marina Link, Singapore

With the hallyu wave spreading like wildfire globally, Korean entertainment and culture have become readily available  practically everywhere and that of course, includes Korean restaurants specialising in the fine art of barbeque. Recently, JP Pepperdine Group which owns popular steakhouse Jack's Place and Eatzi Gourmet, has started another venture by bringing Kkongdon Barbeque into Singapore's gastronomic scene.

To date, Kkongdon Barbeque has more than 60 branches in Korea and 2 locally, which are located at Marina Link and SAFRA Toa Payoh. According to internet source, JP Pepperdine is set to open another 11 outlets within the next 3 years.


Kkongdon Barbeque (meaning "value for money") promises authentic Korean barbeque experience at a reasonable price. There is also a free-flow kimchi salad bar which is available for any order of main course. Besides the usual red chilli kimchi, Kkongdon BBQ serves an impressive array of side dishes, including fresh lettuce to wrap your barbequed meat.


There is a promotion for their group dinner set at just S$19.80++ per pax with a requirement of minimum 2 persons to order per set. Basically, it comes with a combination of two meats - pork, beef and chicken, Kimchi pancake, soup and steamed rice. Since there were 6 of us, we decided to go with two dinner sets (which was supposed to be shared among four).


I love restaurants that let you cook yourself, although seemingly tedious, the do-it-yourself (DIY)process allows one to control how well the meat is done and not to mention that cooking is always fun, aye? Cook some meat, dip it with preferred sauce, wrap in lettuce and pop into your mouth!


On top of the meats, we had an extra portion of lightly seasoned Pork Cheek Meat (S$16.00), an under-rated and under-used portion of the pork which tasted somewhat like pork belly without the layer of fat and felt tender and chewy.
 
 
My favourite cut was the beef skirt, which speaks juicy and a burst of flavour. I like mine done medium-well with a tint of redness and lightly dipped in soy sauce.
 

Kimchi Pancake which comes together with the set (or S$10.80 w/o set) is too floury for my liking. The amount of kimchi was disappointing as well.


Ginseng Chicken (S$18.00), a Korean classic dish which is believed to cure illness, consisting of a whole chicken cooked in a broth of jujubes, ginseng and garlic with a generous portion of sticky rice.


Beef Bulgogi Stew (S$13.00) with assorted mushrooms, is a hearty soup that one would definitely wish for winter. It was a tad salty, but for someone who likes salty food, it was not half as bad.


As always, food is always good with awesome company.

(from left) ZR, me, Brother Tim, Bestie WY (with Peiyi and Pam not in picture)

Kkongdon Barbeque also comes equipped with retractable pipes that suck in the smoke, air purifiers and febreeze to make sure you don't walk out of the place with "barbeque smell". To be honest, Kkongdon is not the best Korean barbeque place, but the affordable price for these quality and quantity, it's quite worth it.





Kkongdon BBQ

Tel: 6336 2580

Opening Hours
Daily: 11am - 10.30pm

6 Raffles Boulevard
#B1-01/02
Marina Link

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ningxia + Shida Night Market @ Taiwan

Besides the famous Shilin Night Market, do give a visit to the minor and less "advertised" ones such as Ningxia night market (寧夏夜市) where nearly 90% of the crowd is made up of its local people. Although not as decorated and crowded with tourists, it does however offers an array of delicious street snacks, souvenirs and classic carnival games. On top of that, Ningxia was one of the cleanest and organized night market I had observed in Taipei.


Directions to Ningxia Night Market

1. From ZhongShan MRT Station Exit 1, walk approximately 10 minutes westwards along Nanjing West Road.

2. From Shuanglian MRT Station Exit 2, walk approximately 10 minutes westwards along Minsheng West Road.
 
Note that it is indeed quite a distance from any nearest station, but do hang in there for a rewarding night market experience awaits you at Ningxia. Don't forget to try out their famous Muah Chi (麻糬), which comes completed with peanut and sesame powder.




One of the greatest creations created by mankind is combining a piping hot baked potato wrapped in a nicely crisped skin, together with a generous amount of mayonaise and melted cheese. Here we had the potato with mashed tuna filling (NT$60). No wonder my friends strongly raved about this, cos' I can tell you what it tasted like - heaven.


Most of the stalls in Ningxia Night Market are equipped with tables and chairs, which is comforting to have after a whole day of walking. We chose a stall located near the end of the street and decided to have our proper meal there.
 
Braised Pork Rice 滷肉飯 (NT$25) and a good bowl of Lamb Stew (NT$80) with lots of meat (and ginger too).


Another night market I would like to recommend is Shida 師大夜市. There is some rumours that Shida has been closed down, but I would like to clarify that it is up and running (as of Nov 2012). Maybe a portion of it has been downed, but Shida Night Market still hold its vibrance. It is located near a couple of universities, so do expect no less than crowded streets flocked by university students.
 
There are all kinds of shops selling all sorts of items, but mostly on apparels and accessories (which of 70% are female-based). Well, being the guy, I had to wait for Peiyi to finish her shopping before continuing our gastronomic journey.

Directions to Shida Night Market

1. From Taipower Building MRT Station Exit 3, walk 5-10 minutes before reaching.


I highly recommend 咸水鸡, which means chicken cooked in salt water. This particular corner stall in Shida proves to be an expert of the dish. We had chicken breast mixed together with at least 4 various vegetables (mushrooms, sliced cucumber etc) and chicken gizzards for just NT$110. It is then de-boned, cut into smaller pieces and mixed together with drizzles of sesame and chilli oil. I found it a perfect dish to be part of the family dinner, plus it's highly addicitve.

 
Onion Pancake (蔥抓餅) is another must-try in Shida. It costs NT$25 and an additional NT$5 for egg and NT$10 for extra ingredients such as cheese, bacon and vegetables, which then you drizzle your own combination of sauces. It surely does remind you of Roti Prata, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市 @ Taiwan

Introducing Shilin Night Market (or better known as 士林夜市), one of Taiwan's largest and most popular tourist spot and which I guarantee is on 99% of anyone's Taipei itinerary. Besides boasting well-known Taiwanese snacks such as chicken cutlet, oyster omelette and beef noodles (just to name some, or for the adventurous - stinky tofu and pig's blood), it also serves as a late night shopping haven for locals and tourists alike.


Directions to Shilin Night Market

1. From Jiantan MRT station, walk towards JiHe road. Try looking for a cross-road junction (ref above). Do note that the night market is NOT located at Shilin Station, which is one stop away from Jiantan.

Shilin (WenLin Road)

This is the main entrance to Shilin Night Market, usually crowded with locals and tourists taking a picture of themselves together with the neon signboard. It gets really crowded on Friday nights and weekends and if you do not want to end up like sardines in a tin, opt to visit at a weekday instead.


One does not simply miss the prominent 士林豪大大雞排 (fried chicken cutlet) shop located just beside the main entrance and for lucky Singaporeans, there are currently 2 branches locally, located at Ion Orchard and Nex.


For NT$55 a piece, you get to enjoy a piece of fried chicket cutlet as huge as a person's face.


It was slightly oily but not exactly greasy. I wished that the layer of batter was thinner though, nevertheless this is much better than the ones you can get from Singapore. Here's an up-close shot of that sinful goodness:


I do recommend this particular restaurant, which specializes in oyster omelette. It is located at the end of JiHe Road.



Keelung Tempura  甜不辣 (NT$50, translated directly as "sweet, not spicy"), which is different from the Japanese version is actually fried fish paste, usually served with slices of crunchy pickled cucumber and sweet sauce.

 
And of course, their well-known oyster omelette 蚵仔煎 (NT$50) which comes with a great deal of oyster and topped with sweet and spicy sauce. For me, I don't usually eat oyster omelette in Singapore, but since I was at its birthplace, I knew I got to try it out. The verdict? Delicious.


Another part of the night market is nestled at the basement and is especially popular and crowded with tourists, as most of the street snacks are housed within the roofed area. Most of the stall owners tout their specialities as you walk pass by the food stalls, but do continue to look around and compare. Usually for newbies like me, I either research online beforehand or look for long queues (Singapore kiasu spirit, if you know what I mean).


One of the must-try is 大腸包小腸 (NT$50). It resembles an American hotdog bun, just that it is replaced with a Taiwanese sausage and crunchy veg wrapped between glutinous rice "sausage" (bun, rather).


You can never get 2 soft shell crab for the price of NT$100 in Singapore. As a crab lover, Peiyi raves about it, while it tasted only pretty decent for me. But again, it is still darn cheap.


Oyster Mian Xian (NT$60) as another highly acclaimed dish but where I ate it, the broth and noodles are fine, however the oyster standard is sub-par.


Similarly to 大腸包小腸, Da Bing Bao Xiao Bing 大餅包小餅 (NT$30) is a crunchy and crispy bun wrapped in a popiah skin. The fillings do come in different flavours such as taro, mung beans and peanuts. I had mine with red beans crisp, which proves to be a nice choice.


Feeling thirsty? Why not try out their honey bittergourd juice (NT$50)? Peiyi was skeptical at first, but grew to like it with every single sip. The fruit, similar to bittergourd but pale yellow in colour, is sweet with little traces of bitterness and leaves your tongue slightly dry after. Interesting eh?


The above are only a fraction of the food Shilin has to offer, hence it is highly recommended to grab a few friends and start a gastronomic trip right here at Shilin. Good food are meant to be shared, isn't it?
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Table Manners @ Changi City Point, Singapore

You don't usually come by an eatery with a quirky shop name, but when you do, you can't simply walk away without trying it out. After an evening of shopping at the recent computer show at Expo, a few friends and yours truly decided to have our late dinner, or rather supper at Table Manners - a casual American chic bar equipped with sleek, wooden furnitures and clever quotes, well-hidden amidst the outdoor garden of Changi City Point, an addition to the ulu area of the East.

We were immediately seated inside by a service staff, who skipped all the formalities and gave us a friendly "yo bros" with a huge smile, which is a plus point from me. Diners may also opt for al-fresco dining at their bar area or wooden pavilion surrounded by greeneries. 

"The World Is Round, And Manners Aren't Square"
 
Truffle Chicken (S$8.50) was delectably crunchy and flavourful. It was a tad salty, but it would serve as a perfect drinking snack.


Probably my favourite item of the dinner, King's Burger (S$16.00) - a large, juicy medium-done beef patty on caramelized buns with crispy greens, bacon slices and topped up with a good ol' sunny side-up egg. It is served with generous portion of truffle fries and salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
  

One of their speciality - Mary's Little Lamb (S$20.00) is indeed quite a "little" one literally, or maybe Mary has not been feeding her lambs sufficiently. Small it might seems, it was soft and tender to the flesh, and drizzled by light, yet aromatic gravy sauce. Served with mashed potatoes and salad.


Angus Ribeye Steak (S$23.00) grilled to perfection with a pinkish soft center (we had it done medium), was succulent and tender enough to make me salivate at every single bite. Considering the price for this quality, it is well worth it.


The chefs were a little heavy on tobasco sauce on their Jambalaya (S$16.00), seafood and chicken wings cooked in spicy tomato sauce. It is served with a bowl of pilaf rice (which honestly, is a better dish in itself.) One of my friends, Chang Sun added, "it is decent, but not worth the money."


Besides ala-carte menu, diners can mix-and-match their lunch sets and drinks to their own preferences, as well. How cool is that? Table Manners in general, is definitely a great place to chill out with your friends over the weekend, what's more is that most of the food items are reasonably priced, so you won't have to worry burning much of a hole in your pocket.




Table Manners

Tel: 6604 7669

Opening Hours
1130 morning till late

5 Changi Business Park
#01-68/69
Changi City Point - The Oasis

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fu Hang Dou Jiang 阜杭豆漿 @ Huashan Market, Taipei

If you are looking an authentic and traditional Taiwanese breakfast, fried dough fritters (油條) accompanied by a good cup of soy bean milk (豆漿) is your best bet. While hundreds, if not thousands of eateries in Taipei sells these Chinese delights, Fu Hang Dou Jiang 阜杭豆漿 dominates the rest of them.
 
Located at Huashan Market, Fu Hang Dou Jiang is not only well-known for its food, but also for its insane, long queues as well. According to my internet research beforehand, one can easy wait up to an hour before ordering on a good weekend. Prior to this, we decided to head out early on a Wednesday morning and was no less surprised that it already has at least a 40-person queue. By the moment I joined the queue, I was at the staircase. That's how long it is and there is even a queue diagram on how to line up!
 
 Fu Hang Dou Jiang's menu (as of Nov 2012)

While waiting, there is an open kitchen where you can see how their famous fritters are being made while queuing up. The service crew is fast and efficient, but not less polite.

 
Peiyi and I had the cold soy bean milk (NT$22) and the hot version (NT$20) respectively. As expected, these are one of the best bowls of soya goodness I ever had. You probably can't see it, but it forms a thin layer of film from the coagulation when it is cooled.
 

Dough fried fritters, also known as Chinese donuts (NT$22) are obviously a must-try. This version is much longer at approximately 1.5X the length of Singapore's regular size. They also serve other sweet and salty savoury buns, which I prefer the sweet one much more.


We totally love the 薄饼蛋夹油条 (bao bing dan jia you tiao) (NT$44), fried dough fritters and omelette encased in a thin layer of crispy dough.


Definitely one of the top choices for traditional breakfast in Taipei, but I kind of pity the rest of the eateries at Huashan Market as almost all the businesses are taken by Fu Hang Dou Jiang.




Fu Hang Dou Jiang 阜杭豆漿

Opening Hours
Tues - Sun: 5:30am - 12:30pm
Closed on Monday

108 Zhongxiao East Road
2nd Floor
Hua Shan Market

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shifen 十分 @ Taiwan

Located amidst the moutains of Taiwan, and similar to how Jiufen derives its name, Shifen is a scenic rural town built by ten families a long time ago and is most well-known for the railway tracks and the majestic Shifen Waterfall 十分瀑布.


Directions to Shifen

1. From Taipei Main Station, take the Taiwan Railway Adminstration (TRA) heading eastward bound to Shifen Station. Train ride takes approximately 1 hour from the city.


Shifen is also famous for its traditional sky lanterns, which wishes are written on it and sent into the high heavens. The best time to launch the sky lanterns is at dusk or during the sky lantern festival, but you can see people sending their wishes as early as in the morning.

Functional railway tracks run between the old street, therefore be warned of incoming trains! The train honks proudly and security will chase everyone out of the tracks. Most tourists would then whipped out their cameras and start flashing at the train as if it is some kind of superstar.

 

We thought that cake moulded in the shape of the iconic sky lantern is adorable so we decided to give it a try. It comes in a few assorted flavours, like custard, cheese and chocolate.

There are a few suspension bridges (like the one below) in Shifen offering good views of the greeneries and the streams below.

The bridges would tremble mildly, but don't worry for they have some sturdy support (not me, holding that, I'd probably scream and run for my life if the bridge start to snap.)


We head towards the main attraction (which is Shifen Waterfall) - a 30 minutes walk from the station. It wasn't exactly rewarding and disappointing when we found out that the entrance to the waterfall is closed as it was getting dark at approximately 5pm. Therefore if you are visiting Shifen during winter, it would be strongly advisable to do so during the morning or early afternoons.

But well, the visitor centre gave us some postcards of Shifen (including the waterfall), which I guessed it meant something like a token of appreciation for walking all the way there.

We shrugged off the disappointment as we headed back to set off our very own sky lantern. It comes in different colours and prices vary according to the number of colours. We chose a combination of red and white because it is our national colour and it meant hope(red) and future(white). A two-coloured lantern costs NT$140.
My written mandarin got rusty so I've got to ask girlfriend to help me out. Health, peace, longevity for our parents, bright future and wealth are some of the wishes we hoped for.


We requested a staff who seemed to act professional with all the burst shots and later ended up with 90% blurry photos. But anyway, here is our wishes flying off:

Happy Station located at the station sells Shifen-themed souvenirs, such as sky lantern keychains, postcards etc, but I would recommend getting your souvenirs at other shops as prices are more competitive and relatively much cheaper.


That's all for this rustic town, do look forward to my full Taiwan itinerary which is set to release next week, meanwhile do check out the other travel journals!