Chinese New Year is coming and I am really looking forward to it! Unfortunately I no longer receive red envelopes containing money as I did as a child in Hong Kong, but I enjoy any chance to celebrate festivities! You can imagine my excitement when hearing that a Chinese New Year themed high tea created by the lovely and extremely talented pastry chef Anna Polyviou would be featuring at Shangri La in Sydney this year.
I was recently invited along to Wok On Inn at the Rocks to sample some of their dishes.
Funnily enough I actually spent several months working at a friend’s company a few minutes’ walk away, so it was a good opportunity to visit one of my old haunts.
Please note that I was served ‘half size’ dishes, so expect a larger size for yourself when you visit. Given this in mind I would expect that double sizes of the dishes I sampled would be quite massive and filling!
On planning my recent trip away to Singapore and Japan, I was happy to see a post on ChopinandmySaucepan’s food blog detailing a recent experience at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore. Having only visited there once on a layover as a child, I was happy to put something so delicious-looking on my must-eat list. Plus, with Anthony Bourdain touting Tian Tian as his favourite spot to eat Hainanese chicken, I didn’t really need much more convincing.
(vid above) Anthony Bourdain enjoying Hainanese chicken rice at Tian Tian.
Admittedly I had very little experience with Hainanese chicken rice in Sydney. I remember first ordering it in Chatswood at an Asian food court and was somewhat disappointed. The rice was bland and flavourless, the chicken dried out and nothing special at all. I couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about and so did not ever bother to order a second time. However, upon glancing upon Chopinand’s blog post about Tian Tian – I was immediately entranced by the glossy, gorgeously moist looking photos of luscious looking chicken and from that I was convinced that I had to give Hainanese chicken a second try.
One of the reasons I was so excited to visit Singapore is because of its insane cleanliness. As a kid, my mum put the fear of God into me about street food (which everyone knows is the best stuff!) and so I was never allowed to sample any on our family trips to the Philippines (much to my disappointment). Even now as an adult, I hear my mum’s voice echoing every time I have the opportunity to sample some tasty but potentially dodgy-looking street food while travelling. Fortunately Singapore solves this issue by displaying mandated signs pretty much everywhere food is served, which lets you know what sort of grade (A, B, C or D) their establishment has received from their National Environment Agency. You can’t really get much more reassuring than that. Plus the fact that everywhere in Singapore is so unbelievably spick and span makes me think that their kitchens have just as high a standard of cleanliness. So given this, Singapore is pretty much my dream destination – my one opportunity to safely gorge myself on as much cheap and delicious street food as possible!
Hainanese Chicken Rice, $3.50 SGD. Comes with their famous chilli sauce and dark soy sauce and a bowl of chicken broth (not pictured).
Why not grab a frosty glass of sugar cane juice?
Or a melon-soy smoothie?
So the verdict?
Tian Tian’s Hainanese chicken was without a doubt the best chicken rice I have ever had (including several other restaurants we sampled whilst in Singapore). Of course, my limited experience with this particular dish may not give much weight to this statement so I’ll go one step further and say that it is also without a doubt the best chicken dish I have ever eaten. Mike, who came on this Hainanese chicken adventure with me (and is a bit of a Hainanese chicken aficionado himself), claimed it was “Easily the best Hainanese chicken I have ever had.” The chicken was so unbelievably packed with moist, juicy flavour and the chicken rice was incredibly good. There were plenty of sauces and condiments to add to the dish, but it was SO good that I ate about 3/4 of it before I even remembered they came with it – and to be honest it didn’t really need it. It just tasted so damned good by itself.
With a price of $3.50 SGD per plate, it’s almost embarrassingly cheap (especially for Sydney-siders!). For chicken this good, I would expect to pay three to five times the amount in Sydney, should anyone ever master Hainanese chicken the way they have at Tian Tian.
It’s a shame that we only visited Singapore for three days. Had we stayed for more, or come to the Maxwell Food Centre earlier, I definitely would have visited Tian Tian on more than one occasion! I definitely will be looking for my Hainanese chicken fix in Sydney. Here begins the quest to find something that’s nearly as good as Tian Tian’s!
I absolutely loved Singapore. Our recent three day trip was jam-packed full of sightseeing, photographing and, of course, eating! While I initially planned on writing separate posts for all of the fun activities and things we ate (a bit ambitious, I think!) I decided instead to compress all the best things of our Singapore trip into one condensed post.
So, without any further ado, I present:
Cooking Crusade’s Must Do, See and Eat in Singapore
I was off dairy products while in Singapore and I have to say… being lactose intolerant in Singapore seriously rocks. Check out their amazing range of dairy free desserts! I wish we had even half of these in Sydney.
Check out this incredible range of dairy free ice-creams. With flavours like mocha almond fudge, chocolate fudge brownie and butter pecan, I was totally in love! Sadly I never got to try any because, well there were just too many other delicious things that got in the way! I have seen some of these ice-creams being sold at Vegan’s Choice Grocery in Newtown though, so I would definitely love to give these a try! We also discovered a massive wall of dairy-free milks at a supermarket with milks that I’ve never seen before, like quinoa milk, hazelnut milk as well as a huge range of flavoured soy and rice milks. Their range for regular soy/rice/etc. milks was also much larger than anything I’ve ever seen in Sydney! It was a non-dairy milk drinker’s dream come true!
This amazing shop called “Mr Bean” makes being dairy intolerant a total dream. How amazing do all of these desserts sound?!
Kindly sign me up for one of each.
Not to mention the heart-stoppingly cheap prices. (By the way, SGD is slightly less than the AUD, so a $2 drink would cost about $1.60 AUD. CRAZY cheap!)
Hot “Classic Bean Curd” from Mr Bean with a sweet syrup. People, this cost $1 SGD. ONE DOLLAR, ARE YOU KIDDING ME. COME TO AUSTRALIA, PLEASE!!
Another thing I loved about Singapore was randomly finding a huge building stuffed with Filipino restaurants. Sadly I discovered this post-lunch but I could still appreciate it’s awesomeness.
This is the stuff my dreams are made of. I would kill for one of these cafes in Sydney! Especially when you can get two choices, rice and a soft drink for only $6 SGD!
Cute Asian bakeries pretty much everywhere.
Hainanese chicken. Of course! (More on this coming to the blog soon!)
Amazing drinks, everywhere, for low, low prices. These were totally mandatory on every hot day (which, by the way, is every day.)
Places named “Gluttons’ Bay”. Food blogger’s paradise, right? 😉
Falling in love with new desserts (above, durian chendol). It was so good I had it twice in one day!
Beautiful flowers, pretty much everywhere. Ain’t nothing can’t grow in that heat!
The novelty of seeing a boat on top of three towers. (Marina Bay Sands Hotel.)
The epic view on top of said boat above, especially at night.
Not only do they have a free 24 hour movie theatre, they also have free wifi throughout the airport, a million free internet terminals, a butterfly garden, a koi pond, free phone charging terminals, free foot massages, a pool (entrance requires a small admission fee), free bus tours of Singapore (yes, seriously!) and heck, their website even has a list of suggested activities, depending on how long your layover at the airport is!
Free foot massage?? Don’t mind if I do!
A butterfly garden! At the airport!
A koi pond, why not?
These are great if your phone battery’s running low at the airport (which of course I always am!) You attach your phone to the cable inside, lock it in the mini locker and then come back after a spot of shopping or a snack to a fully charged phone. Pretty useful for layovers, although I must admit I was scared of accidentally leaving my phone behind!
I absolutely loved our three day trip to Singapore and am seriously dying to go back! Other memorable activities we did included the Night Safari (very highly recommended, we loved this!) and a trip to the Asian Civilisations Museum (incredibly interesting museum chock full of artwork and intricate ancient artifacts). If you can get a tour for the museum, it definitely makes the experience much more worthwhile!
Have you been to Singapore? What were some of your favourite things to do there?
Do you guys have a family favourite Chinese restaurant? I think everyone has one. Its kind of a tradition, isn’t it?
I’ve been going to the Golden Singapura since I was knee high to a grass hopper. A family fave, we still occasionally frequent this place, although I have to admit, less frequently in the recent years, mostly because my Mum is less of a fan of takeaway foods these days. (She’s become a staunch vegan in the last year or so.)
Ever since I started dating my fiance, we discovered a new place close to his family’s home which has quickly become a favourite. Even though it’s not close to his place or mine, whenever we visit his family, we love visiting this place!
I still remember the first time I ever visited Eastern City Chinese restaurant – we were with some friends from Mike’s church who frequently there and after that first time, we were hooked. We had many Sunday night dinners which quickly through the years turned into countless family and birthday dinners.
Oh Eastern City Chinese restaurant, I heart you!
Here are some recent pics of a yummy dinner there recently 🙂 Pics are a teensy bit dark, sorry bout that peeps!
Peking Style Beef Strips – Amazing! We order this every time we come..
Mike’s brother’s fave, Mongolian Lamb
Salt and pepper tofu
The chef always makes these amazing little carrot carvings with the dishes – so much detail!!
Who could forget dessert?
Deep fried ice cream with caramel sauce
Vanilla Ice Cream with Lychees
My absolute fave dishes have to be:
Peking style beef strips
Sweet and sour fish
Pan fried snake beans (we generally ask for these without pork, but they do come with them by default)
Eastern City Chinese restaurant is located at:
7 Hillcrest Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120
Phone number: (02) 9875 1411
They’re also a stone’s throw from the Pennant Hills Train Station if you’re traveling by public transport and as a side note, they also do takeaway! 🙂
If you’re in the area, definitely give this one a try!
Every once in awhile, I’m hoping to post up quick tips to help you guys around in the kitchen.
This post is the first of it’s kind in the Quick Tips segment.
On today’s quick tips segment, we have ………Cake decorating tips and our fabulous rice-shaping technique, guaranteed to make your rice look well, as pretty as a picture. Remember those Sunrice ads when we were little – the rice used to shape itself into all kinds of magical shapes? Well.. this is sorta like this… but not as cool. Sorry.
Ok starting off with cake-decorating tip of the day. This isn’t anything special or complicated. In fact, it only involves 1 decorating tool – strawberries.
I made this cake for my boyfriend’s mother’s birthday. I did *attempt* to try and make swirly patterns in the icing, but it wasn’t the right consistency, so it kinda fell out. You can kiiiinda see them in there. That’s a lesson for another day, folks.
Ok, so after you ice your cake, wash and halve strawberries. You can remove the leaf part at the top if you like, but I think the green and red go together very prettily and its easy enough to just pick off. Then place your strawberries, leaf side up on the cake in a pattern around the cake until you have reached the other side of the cake. If you have some spare strawberries, you can arrange them in the centre, as I have done. If not, it still looks equally impressive. Super-super easy. This goes just as well over a cheesecake or any other cake of your choosing – but I think it goes quite well with a chocolate cake. The best thing is how easy it is and it seriously makes the cake look way better than just plain (or my usual decoration of……sprinkles. lol.)
Next up is our rice shapin’. This one is in the shape of a heart. I was lucky enough to get these adorable heart-shaped Maxwell & Williams bowls for Christmas from my boyfriend’s grand-parents. I love them. They come in three different sizes and I use them all the time. They’re handy for dips and snacks when we have people over, but I also like to use them for this.
(Sorry this photo is a little dark. I took a couple with the flash but it overexposed and you couldn’t see the outline of the rice as well, boo.)
Anyway, getting back to the post…
Making this rice-heart shape is so incredibly easy. You don’t have to use a heart shaped bowl either. My mum uses small round Chinese bowls to shape the rice to a perfect round bowl-shape, like they do at some Chinese restaurants. Just pack the rice into the smaller bowl that you are using (you can use a the rice paddle or just a metal spoon) until it is quite compressed. Then place the bowl gently down on your plate and bam, pretty rice. It’s important to pack the rice into the bowl so you don’t get stray grains going everywhere. You could also make shapes with fried rice, which also looks quite good.
Hope these tips have helped! What kind of handy or special tips do you have in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about it in the comments 🙂
I got the inspiration for this one from Anh’s food blog, specifically her recipe for roast hoisin chicken and I came up with this chicken cashew nut salad.
I made a chicken marinade using hoisin sauce, grated ginger, sugar, some maple syrup and some soy sauce. I used about 1/2 jar of hoisin sauce, a couple tablespoons of soy, about 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a good sized heaped teaspoon of grated ginger and a dollop of maple syrup. I poured everything into a lee kum kee hoisin sauce jar I had leftover and shook the whole mix up, ensuring the sugar would incorporate with the mixture. After shaking it for about a minute, I marinated chicken thighs in several tablespoons of it (so they were thoroughly coated) in a glass bowl for about an hour, then roasted them in a shallow dish for about 1 hour at about 170 degrees in a hot oven until they were a lovely dark golden colour and cooked through. Keep the rest of your marinade in the fridge for next time!
I allowed the cooked chicken to rest for about ten minutes, then I sliced the meat into strips and placed them on top of a green salad (I used a simple Coles bag o’ salad, but you could just use a mixture of rocket, spinach and whatever else you fancy. I also added one chopped up cucumber.) Dress the salad with a simple mixture of balsamic and honey and sprinkle with cashew nuts. Serve. Yum-yum! Low-carb, high protein 🙂
Give this one a try!