Plain Vanilla Bakery (Tiong Bahru) – Is It Just Plain Hype? My Review…

Plain Vanilla Bakery

I had an underwhelming dinner at Poteato (Tiong Bahru) this evening, so I thought getting cupcakes from Plain Vanilla Bakery would save the day (or night). It was not meant to be.

I loved the decor at Plain Vanilla. It looks like an awesome place to chill with a good book, some tea and a nice cupcake. But it was too late at night for all that. So I bought 4 cupcakes to take home, and another 2 more for my girlfriend to bring back. She chose Earl Grey Lavender and Vanilla Bean, while I took the 4 above – Milk Chocolate Banana, Milk Chocolate Chip, Red Velvet and Dark Chocolate Ganache.

Upon reaching home, I ate the Milk Chocolate Chip and Red Velvet cupcakes. The latter had a frosting/icing/whatever-you-call-it (‘cos I don’t bake) that was grainy. It was not velvety-smooth like I was expecting. So the contrasting texture with the moist muffin below was a tad odd. And that was made worse by the grains of sugar that I could see and most definitely taste.

How often do you bite into a cupcake and see grains of sugar? Hmm…

It was the same with the Milk Chocolate Chip. Darn.

I’m hoping that when I eat the remaining cupcakes tomorrow morning, I will not SEE sugar again. I know it’s a key ingredient, but I’d prefer if the cupcakes have a smoother consistency without awkward grainy bits, thank you very much.

I think I’ll head back again… but not for the cupcakes next time. ;)

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Pricing: S$3.50 for 1 cupcake, $19 for 6 cupcakes

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Opening Hours:

Tuesday to Friday 11am to 8pm

Saturday 9am to 8pm

Sunday 9am to 6pm

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Address: 1D Yong Siak Street [The other outlet is at 34A Lorong Mambong]

Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce: Soup Base for Black Pepper and Pork Bone Hot Pot

Lee Kum Kee Hot Pot Soup Base

I’m a huge fan of soup cooked Chinese-style and my favorites are what my mom cooks at home, of course. I was a little hesitant at how Lee Kum Kee’s hot pot soup base would turn out as I don’t usually add any such sauces to hot pots. If it’s a steamboat dinner, the flavors from the ingredients such as prawns, chicken, fish, carrots, mushrooms, etc, would be sufficient for the soup.

But Lee Kum Kee’s menu-oriented sauces are for the time-strapped individuals, or maybe even those who need to impress future mother-in-laws. So I tested it out…

Lee Kum Kee Hot Pot Soup Base

Just seconds after adding the sauce to the boiling water, the water became soup instantly. There’s MSG in the sauce so it’s definitely tasty, and there’s a lot of pepper in there, as it really packs a punch. So if you like spicy soups, you’ll take to this one, though you might find yourself drinking a lot of water after as it’s quite thirst-inducing.

To counter this, I’d recommend using either more water than recommended for this soup, or using less of the sauce. (The recommended ratio as stated on the pack is 1.5litres of water to 1 packet of sauce)

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Soups are usually left to simmer in the slow cooker at home, but this time round, I boiled all the ingredients to ensure they are cooked fast and then added the packet of sauce. Can you make a decent pot of soup in under 30 minutes? Now you definitely can.

For my soup, I added chicken, prawns, shitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms, baby carrots, broccoli and corn.

I felt the black pepper overpowered the taste of all the ingredients I added. So the next time I’m using this soup base again, I’ll probably just make it bak kut tek-style with lots of pork ribs. :D

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Check out my earlier blogposts about these Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauces:

1) For Teriyaki Chicken Wings

2) For Tomato Garlic Prawns

3) For Ma Po Tofu

Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce: Sauce for Ma Po Tofu

Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Ma Po Tofu

This is one sauce that I did not like, and this is one dish which did not take well to steaming. LOL.

I found the sauce incredibly salty, and much as I love tofu, I could not bring myself to eat more than one piece. (@_@)

I guess you’ll like this ma po tofu sauce if you like dishes which are very salty and spicy. It was just too much for me.

Ingredients:

90g minced pork

250g soft bean curd

1 packet of Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Ma Po Tofu

Method:

“Stir-fry minced pork in 1-2 tbsp oil until done. Add soft bean curd and Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Ma Po Tofu. Stir well (gently). Cook over low heat until sauce thickens.”

This sauce can also be used for cooking beef, chicken and noodles.

It looked like some weird curry tofu mixture after I’d steamed it. Not too enjoyable. But next up… I’ll be blogging about the soup. :)

Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce: Sauce for Tomato Garlic Prawns

lee kum kee sauce for tomato garlic prawns

This is quite possibly my favorite sauce from the Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce range. I selected it mainly because I love eating prawns, but also because it doesn’t come with added MSG.

All you need are prawns and this packet of sauce to create this dish. Easy or what?

lee kum kee sauce for tomato garlic prawns

*Garlic and tomatoes purely for decorative purposes :D

According to the packet, you simply pan-fry the prawns with 2 tablespoons of oil until the prawns turn “golden yellow”, then lower the heat, add the sauce and stir well. Alternatively, stir-fry the prawns with 1 tablespoon of oil, add the sauce and stir it all up.

This sauce can also be used for cooking squid, beef and bell peppers.

As usual, I picked a healthier method of cooking, and steamed the prawns instead of frying them. Before adding the sauce, I removed the “gravy” that resulted from the steaming of the prawns, and added that yummy ‘prawn broth’ to the soup I was cooking.

After I added the sauce, I gave it all a good mix and then let it steam for another minute or two, and it was ready to be served.

According to the bf, this dish turned out to be “finger licking good!” :D

You should try it too! :D

lee kum kee sauce for tomato garlic prawns

Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce: Sauce for Teriyaki Chicken

Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Teriyaki Chicken

I bought the Lee Kum Kee Menu-Oriented Sauce for teriyaki chicken from NTUC as there’s a promotion going on right now: 3 packets for S$4.95. I also got the sauce for tomato garlic prawns and ma po tofu (will blog about them later).

Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Teriyaki Chicken

I added the packet of sauce to about 300g of chicken wings (middle joint), covered the bowl with cling wrap and let it all marinate in the chiller for about 3 hours. [This one packet is actually good for up to 400g of chicken wings]

*Why marinate? Because I don’t eat chicken skin (for health reasons), it is important that the flavors are infused into the meat. If you eat the chicken wings with the skin on, then you can cook the chicken immediately :)

On the pack, it is recommended to “Bring Lee Kum Kee Sauce For Teriyaki Chicken (72g) and 2/3 cup of water to the boil. Add chicken wings, cover and cook for 10 minutes until done”

However, I decided to steam them all on a bed of xiao bai chye for 20 mins. Why put the chicken wings on the veg? To avoid the condensation from ‘soaking’ the chicken in water and causing it to lose its flavor.

*Why choose to steam the chicken? I could leave it to cook with minimal supervision and I could concentrate on the other dishes, and even take a few phone calls. :D

Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Teriyaki Chicken

[ The Taste Test ]

The chicken wings were really fragrant and very flavorful. That umami (meaty, savoury) taste is likely due to the Disodium 5′-Inosinate and Disodium 5′-Guanylate. [Yes, I read the ingredients list before purchasing this]

This pack just takes the guesswork out of recipes. I did not have to measure out any soy sauce and what not. I simply emptied the packet of sauce onto the chicken, let it marinate, and then steamed it. Super easy! A kid could do this, really.

As stated on the pack, the sauce can also be used for cooking pork, scallops and carrots.

[NOTE] There is no MSG added, but this sauce not only contains sugar, but also has High Fructose Corn Syrup added.

[ What I Learnt from "Cooking" This ]

I should have used a brush to coat the chicken with the teriyaki sauce before steaming. Perhaps then there’d be a more even coloring of the end product. :D Hehe! There’s always next time!

Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Teriyaki Chicken

Shin Minori Birthday Treat (1-for-1 Buffet) Not The Best Japanese Buffet In Town

Shin Minori has a Birthday special where you get to dine for free on your birthday if you bring a (paying) friend. *You’ll also have to be on their mailing list and print out a voucher and email.

I’ve eaten at Shin Minori previously with a pal. But since the bf wants to try their buffet, we had lunch there on my birthday.

image

For sashimi, I ordered only the salmon. But he went for a mixture. I took one slice from his platter and promptly spat it out. Because of the overpowering fishy smell. As if it had gone bad. The salmon is fine though.

And that sashimi was not the only thing I had trouble keeping down. The pumpkin chawanmushi and crab bean paste soup (kinda like a bisque) was nasty. Couldn’t eat those either.

What I did like though was the stir fried bean sprouts. I actually ordered two small plates of those.

There is also no dessert on their buffet menu. Not even fruit. And though it was my birthday, nothing special was done. They didn’t even bother to wish me a Happy Birthday. Hmm…

Will I be back again? The answer is obvious.

Shin Minori is also investing in technology. The last time I visited, there were no tablets in sight. This time round, some of the tables came with Samsung tablets for ordering food, while others still used the paper menus.

image

The buffet lunch costs $34. Green tea (refillable) at $1 per glass. So despite my meal being ‘free’, he still paid 40-odd dollars in the end, including the GST and service charge.

For the variety, quality and service standards, I don’t think it is value for money. Then again, I’m known to be picky about food. Go try it yourself and tell me if you agree with my take on Shin Minori. ;)

Awfully Chocolate at Vivocity: How Service Standards Have Dropped

Awfully Chocolate - Vivocity

After dinner at Jamie’s Italian (Vivocity), I had ice cream at Awfully Chocolate with my pal Steven and his wife. They shared the chocolate mille crepe while I had hei ice cream, which is my all-time fav.

Awfully Chocolate - Vivocity

It DOES look like a lot of work went into producing the mille crepe. However… it is tasteless. When I tried this after eating my ice cream, I really found this unappetizing. Steven and Melinda didn’t manage to finish this even with my “help”.

And the staff (two young ladies more preoccupied with chatting than serving customers) forgot about my ice cream. Though I had ONLY JUST placed my order. Hmm. I had to walk up to the counter to remind them.

And the ice cream was served like this…

Awfully Chocolate - Vivocity

Yup, that messy tub with a plastic spoon stuck into the ice cream at an odd angle, and with a slash down the middle. *slow clap*

I found the color of the ice cream a shade lighter than usual – they probably added less cocoa this time. It still tastes good though. Better than it looks, for sure.

Will I be back again? Probably not.

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Awfully Chocolate seems to have a problem with staffing, or more accurately, staff who don’t give two hoots about good service, or about their jobs.

The last time I had Awfully Chocolate ice cream was at their Tampines One branch. The staff seemed to be ignoring customers because they were so busy chatting. I overheard their discussion about someone’s boyfriend, how they wanted to exchange handphone numbers, and was also made to feel sorry for interrupting their chat. A blunder made while counting out the change for me resulted in me getting a huge discount off my ice cream. Thank you, ladies. You would have noticed me frowning at the change I received if you had not been so eager to leave the counter and resume your chat. Oh well.

Steamed Chicken with BRAND’S Essence of Chicken

Chicken with brand's essence of chicken

I’ve always wanted to try cooking this myself: steamed chicken with essence of chicken. What would it taste like? I found out this afternoon. :)

There are many recipes online for this dish but I decided to just use what’s available in my fridge. Only chicken wings and thigh cuts were available so I used those. You can use drumsticks if you’d like.

I placed the chicken on a bed of xiao bai cai, added some prawns by the side, and shitake mushrooms, ginger, and wolfberries on top.

If you like your food well seasoned, you can add some cooking wine, salt or soy sauce, but I decided to just take the healthier route and skip all those, adding just the chicken essence.

It still smells wonderful, and tastes pretty good. People who don’t like chicken essence will probably never realize it went into making this dish.

I might add some sliced red chili and pepper next time for a spicier version of this dish. :)

Chicken with brand's essence of chicken

Organic Chiffon Cakes from Bud Of Joy

Bud Of Joy

In September last year, I did a review about Bud Of Joy’s organic goodies, and strangely enough, this month is September and I had a craving for those organic chiffon cakes! LOL!

I placed an order for 2 of the Organic Orange Chiffons ($15.50 each), 1 Organic Pandan Chiffon ($16) and the Organic 100% Wholemeal Nutty Choc-chip Cookies ($9). I didn’t expect them to send me two freebies – the Organic Pandana Cake ($15) and Organic Walnut Scones.

*They forgot about the plastic knives I’d requested, but no issue, I used those at home.

There is a current island-wide delivery promo – $8.20 for weekdays and $15 for Saturdays. *Check their website for terms and conditions!

I don’t like scones very much so I can’t tell if these are good or not. But I definitely LOVE chocolate chip cookies so… Bud Of Joy’s really got me disappointed. The cookies were just… flat. Where’s the chocolate? Perhaps 100% dark chocolate is not a good choice, on top of having no sugar added. The bf helped me finish the pack though – he says it is “not the worst” he’s had. Ha!

And… I TOTALLY missed the little instruction on the Organic Pandana Cake and did not refrigerate it. After about 3 days, I found mould growing happily on the cake surface. (@_@) So… no, I have no idea how the cake tastes. :(

But what I’m really happy with in this order is the Organic Orange Chiffon. I like it more than the Pandan Chiffon actually! The chiffons both smell really good. As I took the boxes out of the plastic bags, I could smell the chiffons already – the orange and pandan scents having permeated the bags.

As my dad was home during the delivery, I had him try the orange chiffon with me. His verdict: “Soft and tasty” (said with a big grin). As for me, I’m thinking that what Japanese cheesecakes have done for ‘cheesecake’, Bud Of Joy has done for chiffon cakes. The chiffons are light and airy, smell really good, and make for guilt-free tea-time indulgences.

Bud Of Joy

Bud Of Joy

I’m definitely going to order more of the chiffon cakes from Bud Of Joy. Hopefully before September 2015! :D

You can order here too: http://budofjoy.com/bakery.htm

Sin Swee Kee: Chicken Rice With Amazing Ngoh Hiang

“Are you a fan of chicken rice?” he asked. I said that yes, I do like chicken rice. And bam, we were off to Sin Swee Kee after a trip to the National Library at Bugis. He actually couldn’t remember which chicken rice stall in this area has the best chicken rice, having followed his friends here blindly the last time. *LOL*

But this one turned out to be a pretty good bet:

Sin Swee Kee

You know what makes or breaks a chicken rice dish? For me, it’s neither the rice nor the chicken. It’s…

Sin Swee Kee

… actually the chili sauce. It must pack some heat and be so tasty that I’d be happy to just drizzle it over the rice and eat just rice + chilli sauce. The chili sauce here is pretty good. I’d rate it a 7.5 / 10.

They are very generous with their rice servings here. We ate our fill.

And like all food places worth its salt, the walls were turned into photo walls. Some were ‘decoy’ photos (of children and parties and all) but some featured celebrities:

Sin Swee Kee

I spot Kingone Wang (superb Taiwanese actor), Bryan Wong… and wait a minute… Minister Lim Swee Say?!

We ordered the set for 2, which came with a plate of xiao bai chye with oyster sauce, 2 drinks, and this weird pi-pa tofu:

Sin Swee Kee

It’s like a hybrid of tofu + fish cake. It’s just weird. I wouldn’t order this again.

BUT… their ngoh hiang is amazing. And totally worth the wait. The ‘skin’ is hot, crisp and yes, slightly oily. And the filling consists of I-don’t-know-what. But we both guessed there’s water chestnut in there. Because it’s so crunchy! Crispy on the outside and crunchy on the inside. Best! It comes with a slightly sweet sauce which complements it really well. I need to eat this again!!!

Sin Swee Kee

Proof that we enjoyed our meal at Sin Swee Kee:

Sin Swee Kee

Just GST with no service charge. The total bill came up to S$24.30. Pretty reasonable. The set for 2 costs S$19.80 and ngoh hiang S$4.50. Yup, I’ll be back again. Two servings of ngoh hiang next time!

[ 34/35 Seah Street ]

[ 6337 7180 ]