Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chinese Restaurants Special

I was sorting though my photos on food and noticed a trend of Chinese Restaurants over the past couple of weeks, so I decided to compile them and do a little special on Chinese restaurants, all of those featured have their own cooking styles and specialities.

Crystal Jade Kitchen
chinese restaurants. crystal jade

My family patronises the CJ chain quite frequently and most frequently is the Kitchen line of chains because of its Cantonese cuisine offered. As a normal weekend family dinner, we all had something simple.

1. Congee. I forgot what congee this is, and I don't suppose anyone can tell what congee that is by looking at the picture. haha~ I don't particularly enjoy eating rice and porridges, but my sister loves CJ's porridge. She loves the smooth milky texture of the grains which you can tell that it has been slowly simmering for ages. We can't seem to get that texture cooking at home, but that might be because we are lazy and lousy.

2 and 3. Prawn Dumpling Noodles, soup and dry versions. The dry version is slighly pricier, I think it's because there's one more dumpling in there. I prefer the dry one too, since there's still a little bowl of soup that comes with the noodles, I can enjoy the savoury taste of the sauce. It's also easier eating dry because the soup isn't too warm. lol~ I love the prawn dumplings, they come in full big fresh bursty prawns, and the dumpling skin is nice and smooth and soft. Put them together, and yum yum.

4. Yangtze Fried Rice. My mother's favourite. There's always enough rice and prawns to go around the family when my mother orders that buy shares with us. Each one of us gets a bite of it and there's still enough to go around. I don't know if it's me, me getting so used to it that I can't tell if it's good or bad, it's just so comforting and familiar.

5. Shredded Duck in Tongfen. My dad's favourite. Apparently, standards can differ according to different branches. Think out of the not many branches we frequent, Takashimaya and Parkway ones are the best which little branches in other heartland malls like Junction 8 are not so good, okay, it's only Junction 8 that disappointed, but well, I tend to exaggerate a bit.

6, 7 and 8. Desserts. Rock Melon Sago, some weird promo stuff which my sister ordered, Guilin Gao. Usually I've a hard time deciding between my two favourites, Guilin Gao and Mango Pudding. This time I got myself the Guilin Gao because the father always say that eating that is better for the complexion, so he prefers me to have that even though I don't see any improvement in my face. Or maybe it's because I haven't been eating enough.

In all, Crystal Jade Kitchen is a nice and cosy place to have dinner with your family with reasonable pricings and attentive service, though at peak periods, usually lunch and dinner times you get a bit of a chaotic situation there, and queues are quite long, depending on which branch you're at, there's either a physical queue or a number system.

Imperial Treasure Shanghainese Cuisine
chinese restaurants. imperial treasure

Hearing lots of stuff about Imperial Treasure, and seeing a long queue at Crytal Jade Lamian Xiaolongbao, my dad wanted to try out the Imperial Treasure chain of restuarants at Suntec City. There should have been warning bells going off seeing that the place was not filled with people unlike the other restaurants left and right. The food was not bad, but not spectacular, the pricings were unfortunately a tad too high.

1. Setting. The teacup was quite interesting, rather large for a Chinese restaurant, but I like the elegance of an all-white offering.

2. Hot and Sour Soup. My sister ordered that. The comments from her and the parents who also tried that was that it was too vinegar-y. I know the soup is supposed to taste sour, but the vinegar seemed a tad too strong for the soup.

3. Xiaolongbao. We had three baskets of it. My verdict, those with the soup intact in the xiaolongbao were okay, those without were sucky, and only 30% of the xiaolongbaos I had had soup in them, the rest of the soup leaked out. I don't know what's wrong with the xiaolongbao, or the basket or the waitresses or the chef, but it was so horrendous at which the rate of soup leaking out. A xiaolongbao with no soup is quite a crappy bao.

4. Fried Rice. The fried rice which my mother ordered, no surprises, was surprisingly good. The egg covered every grain of rye thickly, fully, and savoury. The other ingredients were not bad too, just like any other CJ stuff, but we were still overwhelmed by the pleasantness of the rice. Simple but difficult task to achieve, good egg-covered fried rice.

5. Crispy Noodles. My dad had that, I tried a bit, but it was normal, not in a bad way though, just that there weren't any surprises to it. Or maybe we were still blown away by the fried rice that everything else after that became a blur to us. haha~

6. Goubuli Baozi. I had a bite, it was too dry and too little meat, but I never had any of these before so I can't make a comparison. But Someone said that there weren't enough juice in them, I guess like the xiaolongbaos, the soup had all leaked out or something, quite sad.

7. Silverfish. To me silverfish will always mean those little grey moving creatures inside books and old papers, and they never die no matter how hard I slamm the book shut over them. But this silverfish is a real fish, but my sister thought they looked like lizards. Maybe in Chinese they use lizards to make fake silverfish, I don't want to imagine, but luckily this is Singapore, so I have the confidence to say, it's really fish. Most of my family liked it, I don't see anything special about it. There isn't much meat in there, so maybe that didn;t appeal to me.

8. Springrolls. Normal, not enough fillings, too much skin and too oily.

9. Guotie. They were not bad, at least for those which still had juice in them. The meat was also not bad, just that the guotie were small, smaller than those I had at CJ and more expensive, the taste was just about the same, so under such comparisons, I was a bit disappointed with Imperial Treasure.

10. Fried Mantou. The fried part was flakey and not bun-y like those I've eaten at seafiid restaurants with crab. The insides were dense and heavy. It's not really my thing, but I'm not a bread person in the first place.

11. Steamed Mantou. The steamed one was worse, it was everything of the fried one but without any taste at all. Dense, heavy and no taste, but my sister liked it so it's not my problem. But the mantous were so big that we couldn't finish them, my sister had to doggy bad the steamed mantou back to eat the next day.

12. Shengjianbao. I had high hopes of shengjianbaos, and this disappointed me. The same problem again, not enough juice. And the bao was too thick so it was more bao than meat and juice.

13 and 14. Fried Pancakes. Desserts! Think one is hongzao paste and the other one is green bean paste. The hongzao one was not bad but the green bean one was forgetable, it wan't bad, just blah. I'd like to have them in more flavours though, maybe like lotus paste or red bean paste or something more.

In all, price paid and quality didn't add up. If I want to eat similar or slightly better stuff, there's always CJ to go instead, looking at the menu and all the food offered, CJ and Imperial Treasure are exactly the same, so I don't think I'd want to fork out the extra money just for the same thing.

Beng Hiang
chinese restaurants. beng hiang

After Cantonese and Shanghainese, we had Hokkien fare. Beng Hiang is this nice little Hokkien restaurant which serves up some really nice Hokkien dishes. Weekends can see the restaurants very crowded, so it you're going on a weekend, or any special occasions, and for a larger table, always get a reservation. My family's small so we didn't want to eat that many dishes, so we ended up with a super indulgent course.

1. Ngor Hiang Hae Zoh. These are their specialities, and our favourites. We used to go there and eat with my grandfather quite often. It's sad that now our family has dwindled to like this, but well...

2. Roast Chicken. They didn't have half a roast chicken, so our small family went for the full chicken, and we finished it all. Amazing. The roast chicken is well roasted which crispy skin but not too dry meat.

3. Hokkien Mee. The highlight of the day, my absolute favourite, tough fight with the Kong Bak Paus, but that day I was cravvy for Hokkien Mee and so I was more in love with the noodles. You can't get any Hokkien Mee like this is any Zi Char place lor. I tried a few and none came close to the perfection of this. Other places don't have this thick or this dark a gravy, and they noodles just don't taste right. This really is the ultimate signature dish. The thick sauce tastes strongly of prawns, but my dad says there aren't prawns in there, only prok bones and other secret ingredients. I feel like eating that now...

4 and 5. Kong Bak Pau. This is another of me and my dad's Hokkien favourites. We each had three of them that night. For me I don't eat the fats. I know the whole idea of pork belly is the fats, but I'm the tough meat kind of person so I don't really like softer meats, like fats, so I always remove the fats when I eat them. I still like what I'm eating, meaty and porky and with the dark gravy drenching the pau... wahaha~ *cue fireworks*

It was just a simple fare for five people but it was an indulgent one. We just had everything we like and a lot of it that was it. We didn't realise that we didn't have any vegetables until after the meal. Then again, Beng Hiang isn't known for its vegetables. I remember reading 8 Days which said that Beng Hiang is the right place to bring your Hokkien speaking yellow boots wearing contractor clients to go for a meal, and I beg to differ. It's really a comfort zone for the Hokkiens, and a wonderful introduction of Hokkien fare to the non-Hokkiens.

Hua Yu Wee
chinese restaurants. hua yu wee

Hua Yu Wee is not a dialect based cuisine place, but rather a seafood place, mostly really local-styled seafood. My family used to frequent there a lot, but less lately, but we're still considered as regulars so we enjoy all the perks of being a regular. Some have criticised Hua Yu Wee for giving better service to the regular, but no complains here. Some perks includes getting a seat at the air conditioned area even in fully booked circumstances, and 10% off the bill and free desserts. My dad says that his friends name-dropped his name and also had 10% off their bills, but I'm not telling you my dad's name. My name doesn't carry any weight here. haha~

1. Baby Kailan. My favouritest vegetable.

2. Malai Fengguang. Kangkong in belacan. I always thought the Chinese name of that kangkong dish is quite cool, but I don't eat spicy stuff so I've never tried that before. My parents favourite though. We hadn't ordered rice, but upon seeing that they decided to get a bowl of rice to share to slowly savour the goodness of the spicy gravy.

3. Bamboo Clams. I never tried that before, but my dad said it was nice and ordered one for everyone except my mother who doesn't eat stuff like this. My mother is so sad, she doesn't eat clams and abalone, what a waste. Anyway, the bamboo clams were great, nice and chewy texture which I like.

4. Hotplate Toufu. My sister's favourite. I like the toufu, don't know why we can't get this kind of toufu in our own kitchem. I like the egg base in the hotplate. I don't know why but I'm always snatching with my sister for the egg base. haha~

5. Butter Crabs. Nice nice nice. The crabs are so big and fat and so meaty and I ate so much of them. I like the sides most actually, more than the claws. While the claws provide more a more meaty bite, the sides had the butter fried onto the meat and it was so good. Crabs must really eat the big big ones one...

6. Half a Fried Chicken. With so much food on the table we couldn't do a Beng Hiang and get a whole fried chicken. The half was more than enough, and as my memory served me well, the fried chicken was just as good as I had them in the old days.

7. Ee Fu Noodles. It's a nice drier, plainer noodles with mushrooms, but the noodles are great tasting with a tinge of egg-y taste on the noodles. We used to tapao that for dinner when we were younger and when there weren't that many eateries around the house.

8. Yam Basket. I don't take yam, but I do like the goodies inside, like the prawns and the mushrooms. I love prawns and mushrooms. The prawns are so bursty and crunchy and the mushrooms are so big and crisp.

9. Longan with Almond Jelly. Free desserts! I don't take almond jelly so that's my sister's bowl you're seeing.

The familiarity and comfort I get from Hua Yu Wee is really great, since Hua Yu Wee is like an extension of my home. But eating there, this naggy thought struck me. How long more can Hua Yu Wee survive after sitting on a highly coveted plot of land for this long? When I was younger, there were two other seafood restaurants along that stretch of road, now only Hua Yu Wee remains, the other have been snapped up by property developers who want to build high rise expensive condos in that area. Hua Yu Wee in contrast to the new expensive condos looks old and worn down even though business is still booming. That day I was there there were three different birthday celebrations going on. Birthday as in old people's birthday then the whole family go there to eat taking up like 2-3 tables for each group.

With this I've come to the end of my Chinese restaurants special. I hope this makes you feel hungry because I am feeling very hungry now. haha~

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