Archive for the 'Eating out in Asia' Category

Mekong Rest Stop

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

As I previously mentioned, one of the dangers with joining a pre-arranged tour for your holiday is that you don’t get to pick where you eat.  Usually, restaurants that offer the tour operator the best margin and can have the food ready as soon as you sit down are favoured.  No regard to authenticity or enjoyment of the tourists.  This was the case for many of the places we ate at in Vietnam.  But every so often, we were stunned and delighted to be taken somewhere superb.  Not just clean – but posh, not just yummy, but AMAZING, and not just satisfying but also innovative too!  Mekong Rest Stop is such establishment.  We were on our way back to Ho Chi Minh City when we pulled up at this complex in the middle of nowhere (Well, we had all fallen asleep by then).  We were taken to a beautiful garden, where we were seated at an outdoor pagoda, and seated in a room that had no more than 5 tables in it.  The furniture was antique, and the only thing that was missing was a fan – it was stinking hot!  But our stickiness was alleviated by the cool sugar cane drinks (US$2.50 each, which is considered expensive in Vietnam!!); and forgotten as our pre-ordered menu was delivered to us.  First up, for entrees, we were given mini vietnamese pancakes.  Crisp tumeric infused discs with a prawn, bean sprouts and pork; served with nam chuoc sauce; and the Hanoi Crisp parcels – fried spring rolls which are made with a delicate net style pastry.

Next up, individual beef noodle soups.  As you can see here, what we have as “pho” in Australia is sooo much better because it’s made in beef stock. Whereas in Vietnam most of the time we got it in MSG style soup :( No meaty flavour at all. :(   Unless what we have in Australia is westernised??

Things were looking good! And then along came this BALL!!  What was this fried perfectly rounded thing?? 


Ramana Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Buffet restaurant

Friday, April 8th, 2011

My belly is looking a little preggers lately given our trip in Vietnam and today’s two buffets! One for lunch and one for dinner! You may have gathered that ribs and buffet are my two favourite meals – definitely not for dates though ;) , and if you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh City, there is one that I highly recommend.  We stayed at the Ramana Saigon Hotel (yes, that’s Ramana, not Ramada), a 4 star hotel not really that well located (then again, what is?  HCM city is so big!).  With crossing the street equating to a death wish, we copped out at ate at the “American” buffet.  It was rip off prices by Vietnam standards, but a steal in any other currency 0 at US$18.50 per person.  We inspected – usual salads and bain marie stuff but our eyes lit up when we saw this boat!!

It was filled with ice and then displayed an array of fresh raw seafood for you to heap up onto a plate and ask the chef to cook for you as you wished – grilled, sambal, ginger and shallots, steamed….  That definitely made us pick the buffet over a la carte (in Vietnam you have no idea how long things coudl have been sitting around for).  We had scallops in the shell, huge prawns (which look like yabbies) and normal tiger prawns… yuummm…..

How about a bit of all you can peking/roast duck, chicken and mantou buns? :)

Mandatory sushi plate.  I didn’t try this – the purple is pretty but not quite authentic?? hehe

Then there’s the fresh green vege section – have you ever been on holidays and felt vege deprived and let’s say – been a bit irregular? ;)   Well here you could also pick a plate of your preferred veges and the chefs will also cook it fresh for you!!

This isn’t an ordinary buffet, it’s more like an all you can eat cooked to order!!

There wasn’t much else we wanted to fill the remaining nooks in our stomach with, so we just nibbled on some of the other stuff which included these yummy rice rolls with herbs and duck in them, and some roast duck and pesto roasted veges.

The fruit platter also caught our eye.

I have no idea what those little lolly like balls are but they tasted of star fruit and had 3 little cardamom shaped seeds in them.  Anyone have an idea?

Fresh fruit and vege are your best friends on a holiday diet, and I can never get enough of the tropical stuff.

So there you g0, come here if you’re in HCM city!  It was a real shame that for the time we were there (Saturday night, 6:30 – 8:15pm), there were only 2 other tables. And there was also a band playing just for us at one stage as we had the whole restaurant to ourselves for much of this time!  I hope that yummy food dosen’t all go to waste.   It would be such a shame, with so many hungry people out here.

Ramana Saigon Hotel – 323 Le Van Sy St, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Eatings out in Singapore

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Part 2 of my trip away – Singapore, care of a $1 flight from Penang on Jetstar (which changed the carrier to Valuair :( ).

My friend recommended the new food court, called Food Republic in Wisma Atria for a well priced fresh cooked meal, and another friend recommended I tried the “Fried Carrot Cake”. It’s basically a chopped up turnip cake stir fried in sambal chilli, and fashioned into a tasty omelette.  Just S$3 a serve, I seriously loved it. The chilli was just a hint of what was to come!

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When one thinks of Singapore, the one thing that comes to everyone’s mind is Singapore Chilli Crab.  What is acknowledged as the best place to get it not just by visitors and expats, but locals as well is Jumbo Seafood Restaurant.  It’s a chain, and we went to the one at Clarke Quay, which is Singapore’s take on Southbank or King Street Wharf or Darling Harbour.  The crab is sooooo meaty, with huge claws.  The sauce is sticky, sweet, tangy, tomato-ey, with a hint of chilli, with egg through it.  Order a mantou bun to dunk into the sauce!

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Another unique dish in Singapore is cereal prawns. You can have them shelled or deshelled. Basically they are coated in a sweet, crispy crumb not really like KFC, but not really like tempura either. I must admit, I was so-so on these because the sweetness was a bit over powering. 

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One of my favourite dishes is taro scallops, and Jumbo does a great version – fashioning them into mini abalone shapes!

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Wandering around Clarke Quay and over our way to Robertson Quay, my friend took me to an amazing patisserie, Canelle. Also a chain, these unique creations that are so haute cuisine just look way too good to eat.  Having shared 1kg of crab between two and all those prawns and scallops, sadly our stomachs were groaning with the digestion task, and hence, we stood and looked and finally settled on one to share.

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This amazing chocolate dome has such perfectly smooth glacage, topped with the tempured chocolate dome on top was in fact a dark chocolate mousse cake with a hint of sour cherry in the moist centre.  It was an architectural feat that the smooth creamy mousse could hold its structure so well.  It definitely deserves to be admired before it’s devoured. S$7 each which isn’t bad for what must be so much work.

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Things to try in Malaysia and Singapore

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I just got back from two gluttonous weeks in Penang, KL and Singapore, thanks to the very cheap airfares floating around.  In Penang, everyone goes to Gurney Drive, the biggest and best hawker food centre there. 

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It’s right across from the water behind their newest shopping centre, Gurney Plaza, and is two loonngg rows of stalls selling specialties such as popiah, assam laksa,

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meat and fish ball skewers,

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and of course the famous char kway teow.  You can easily get dinner for under 10 ringgitt which is approx A$3, and the best thing is that the servings aren’t huge, so you can buy and try lots of things!  It’s eating under the stars – and everyone in Penang goes – locals and otherwise.

We also enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the Parkroyal in Penang.  Two egg stations, fresh char kway teow, Asian breakfast items (curries, nasi lemak, congee), as well as an amazing bakery station with cakes, croissants, pancakes and every other naughty thing your mum doesn’t let you eat for breaky :)  

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And for the diet conscious who pigged out at Gurney Drive the night before, the best tropical fruit spread with jackfruit, dragonfruit, starfruit, longans, paw paw and bananas making regular appearances. 

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As Malaysia is a Muslim country, you’ll have to make do with chicken sausages and beef bacon instead of pork bacon which I found very interesting!

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At the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang, the most exclusive resort on the island, the Spice Cafe offers the usual Shangri-La amazing buffet spread.  Go on Monday night if you can as it’s BOGOF (buy one get one free) night!  At 102 ringitt for two, it means yo udefinitely don’t need to stuff yourself silly.  The usual seafood specialities of prawns, oysters, sashimi were complemented by yabbies as well. The hot food had an indian bar with fresh tandoori, a laksa bar,

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 Asian – with jumbo huge cooked prawns.  But all of these pale in comparison to the dessert buffet. I think a picture speaks a thousand words….

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where do you start!

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You start with dessert that’s what! hehehe. 

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There’s also DIY ice kacang – something I found I wasn’t too keen on.

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Something interesting is the black chicken soup… only for the brave!

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The Rasa Sayang also does high tea.  it’s not a very good ambience as there were hardly any others there, and it appears to be served in their lobby lounge which is deserted. Only 30 ringitt for high tea!

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