Friday, 28 February 2014

Zhen Zhen Porridge - Maxwell Food Centre - Singapore, Singapore.

Zhen Zhen Porridge

Singapore will always be my favourite country no matter where I travel in the world. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to go on many trips to experience different cities and explore new countries, in which I've enjoyed some places more than others. There is just something about Singapore that brings me back time and time again. Even though people tend to say it's such a small country, I find that there is heaps to do regardless. It's not too far from Australia, being only approximately 8 hours by plane from Sydney, as compared to going to the United States or Europe which can take up to a whole day. I'm not a plane person and get terribly sick at times, but that hasn't stopped me from going.

There are just so many great things about Singapore that I like such as the highly efficient transport system, the cleanliness of the city and the culture in general. But what I love most about the country is the variety of food on offer, the abundance of locations to get food,  how cheap food can be and how deliciously good the food is.  What is there isn't to like? The only negative is the weather as the humidity and heat gets to you but I prefer Summer over Winter any day.

I can write, write and write about how great Singapore is but this post is all about 'Zhen Zhen Porridge', located in Maxwell Food Centre, serving Singaporean hawker food at extremely affordable prices. It is relatively easy to get to as you can either catch the MRT (train) and get off at 'Chinatown' station, catch a bus or even take a taxi with all modes of transportation being pocket friendly. It is situated across from the Chinese temple.

Maxwell Food Centre may look a bit old and outdated and not appear to be the cleanness of places, but don't be scared off by this, as this is where the authentic Singaporean delights can be found.

What does Zhen Zhen Porridge specialise in you may ask? The two most popular items on their limited menu is the 'Fish Congee' and the 'Raw Fish Salad'. If you read Singapore food blogs, then there has probably been a mention of this place, as it is very popular with locals and tourists with queues starting early in the morning. Some like the taste of their congee while others do not. It all depends on personal preference and whether you're willing to wait in line for a long time!

Arriving just before 10am, we are shocked at the amount of people queuing up for congee so early on a weekend morning. We join the queue and end up waiting 40-50 minutes for a bowl of congee. In Singapore, people queue for things that are good and that only means one thing, the congee here is good. There is a huge pot at the back with an automatic stirrer containing plain congee. I think the main reason for the queue being so long is there is only one person cooking behind the counter so each bowl is cooked individually with the chef combining the congee with choice of meat. The people in front of us appear to be from Hong Kong and the person behind us was holding a map, so they must have been tourist too.

The menu you see is in Chinese but on the side of the glass there is a little menu in English. There are a few meat options on offer for the congee such as chicken, fish, century egg or a combination. The most popular being the fish.

The 'Fish Congee (SGD 3.00)' comes in what looks to be a small bowl but don't be deceived by how it looks as it is packed in densely. The congee is uniformly consistently, smooth and silky, cooked to perfection with fresh pieces of fish. The fish meat melts in your mouth and there is no presence of any weird fishy smells that you may get elsewhere. This is topped with fried shallots, spring onion and ginger. Then sesame oil and white pepper is drizzled on top to season. The congee is steaming hot and just so tasty, reminding me of the Cantonese jook.

 The grains of the congee have been fully dissolved so don't expect rice looking grains like the Teochew style congee with fluffy grains. That sweet and salty dipping sauce with fresh chilli is just phenomenal and I really want to know where I can this this in Sydney, so if anyone knows please let me know.

I noticed a lot of people ordering the 'Raw Fish Salad (SGD 5.00)' also called Yu Sheng in Chinese and this is another recommended dish for those raw fish lovers out there.

I had to get the 'You Tiao (Fried Dough Sticks)' from a neighbouring store called 'Pan Cake' to dip into the congee. A pair of freshly made and freshly fried fritters cooked on premises at a measly price of SGD 0.50.

Then we had to finish our meal with a 'Small Soya Bean Milk (SGD 0.70)' located across from the famous 'Tian Tian Chicken Rice'. Not artificial tasting and well balanced with the right amount of sugar.

Oh yes, do bring some tissue packets cause that's how you can reserve a table or a seat. These restaurants do not provide tissues to wipe your perspiration from the heat!

If you want to avoid the line-up, do go as early as possible and for those who are really eager, Zhen Zhen opens at 5:30am. They do sell out so it's best to go early to avoid disappointment. Worth the wait? To me yes, as I like the taste and texture. Even though I think it tasted better the last time I tried it a few years back but I still think it tastes great.  Well worth a try if you're in Singapore.

Maxwell Food Centre
Maxwell Road
Singapore 069184

Opening Hours
Open daily (Closed Tuesdays)
5:30am - 2:30pm


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Manmaruya Japanese Noodle Bar - Hurstville - Sydney, Australia.

Manmaruya Japanese Noodle Bar

I’m was typing this in my hotel in Seoul the day before I left as I recall posting about Manmaruya Japanese Noodle Bar in Hurstville a long time ago, but I guess my memory has failed me. This was until Miss Booklover pointed this out while I was over there.

This holiday has definitely been rewarding as I've managed to eat a lot, try a lot and shop a lot. These posts will be for later once I catch up with the local restaurants I've been to so watch this space. 

Manmaruya Japanese Restaurant is a popular restaurant specialising in ramen and bento boxes with three locations in Sydney including Hurstville, Campsie and Ashfield. They've recently opened a Japanese BBQ restaurant in Beverly Hills which I’m sure is very popular as well. I've actually been a long-term customer at this ramen joint and found it after I moved to the Shire. In my opinion, it is much better than the franchise store ‘Ajisen Ramen’ in Hurstville, which seems to have downgraded in quality after my post last year as it isn't as busy as when it first opened.

Situated on the quieter side of Hurstville, opposite the train station, Manmaruya is very busy during lunch and dinner. On weekends, expect to queue for a table. Upon my visit last month, I noticed them set up a sushi train next store which connects to the original restaurant, which is now in operation for those sushi lovers out there.

The selection available on the menu is diverse and there are many options to choose from including items such as ramen, bento boxes, sushi and sashimi. They’ve even got lunch specials and specials plastered on the wall.

The ‘Negi Miso Ramen Set ($15.00)’ comes with a bowl of ramen, 3 pieces of gyoza and a side salad. Excellent value as you only have to pay an extra $3 for the set on top of your ramen or udon order. The ramen is a miso flavoured pork soup with noodles that are cooked perfectly, having a slight chew and bite to it. Topped with roasted and melt in your mouth pork, fungus, bamboo shoots, corn, boiled egg, shallots and seaweed paper. I usually get the pork soup ramen as opposed to the chicken soup as the stock is richer and full of flavour. It is thick but not too thick, a balance between being too thick and too thin, just right. Their ramen is definitely a winner.

The ‘Chicken Katsu Curry ($13.00)’ is a large serving. I initially got a shock when it was brought out as first came the extra crunchy, crumbed chicken and rice, and then the huge bowl of smooth curry. Mmm was so delicious. It also came with a miso soup.

‘Ebi-Tem Udon ($11.00)’ is a soy flavoured udon noodle soup topped with fried tempura prawns, shitake mushrooms, fish cake, shallot and seaweed. Personally, I’m not a really a fan of udon but this apparently is really good if you want something light and not too heavy.

The ‘Chicken Nanban Bento Box ($10.00)’ is a lunch special among many specials they have daily. The bento boxes seem to be the most popular amongst diners given the decent portion size and is great value for money. It comes with crispy chicken topped with Japanese tartar sauce, pickled seaweed, mini sushi roll, and rice and miso soup. I don’t like seaweed and sushi in general so that was left untouched by me.

My favourite Japanese restaurant in the south with reasonable prices and authentic food. If you’re in the area do give it a try.

20 Ormonde Pde
Hurstville NSW 2220

Opening Hours             
Monday, Wednesday – Sunday
11:30am – 3:00p
5:30pm – 9:30pm


Manmaruya on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier - The Star - Sydney, Australia.

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

A dessert train??? Yes, you heard correctly.  A dessert train at Adriano Zumbo Patisserie, located in The Star Casino, is one of the first that I know of in Sydney. 

I've been a long time fan of the macarons from Adriano Zumbo, having queued up a few times when he celebrated his birthday with Macaron Day to try out the plethora of flavours on offer. My favourite macarons are the salted caramel and salted butter popcorn. Oh how delicious they are. The size of the macarons seem have to shrunk or gotten smaller over the years and I don’t recall them being as good as they use to be.

Bright, bright colours and neon lights fill the walls and I feel like I’m watching a scene from 'Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory' movie. There is not only a patisserie but also a dessert train, where they make fresh desserts on the premises and you can view them in action. The space isn’t huge but there is enough seating to accommodate for 16 diners. We chose to go after dinner and ended up waiting half an hour or so. By the time we left there was no queue.

The chefs place the desserts on a conveyor belt and they usually make a few of the same and a selected number of desserts depending on how busy it is. Lucky for us, it was busy, so the turnover meant fresh desserts. I was amazed at the intricate details of the desserts on those little plates and the effort put in. Alternatively, you can order from their menu.

If you've been to a sushi train before, they charge by plate colours. All dessert plates on the train are now $7.00 with the exception of the macaron plates which costs $10.00.

The ‘Iles Flottanes ($7.00)’ was one of our favourites for the night. A hollow pavlova shell filled with delicious caramel and vanilla sauce.

The ‘Baked Chocolate and Orange Tart ($7.00)’ was a nice tasting tart but was a bit too sour and heavy handed on the orange flavour. There was nothing about it that screamed amazing.

The ‘Pistachio Crème Au Caramel ($7.00)’was light and refreshing to the palate. We also enjoyed this and the accompanying sauce. 

The 'Chocolate Fondant ($7.00)' was oozing with chocolate and was scrumptious. Not overly rich but just right with the bitterness of the chocolate. 

The ‘Apple Crumble Rice Pudding ($7.00)’ looked appealing but wasn't chosen as it was hard to share. We saw it go round and round in circles.

The ‘Cappuccino ($3.50)’ was a great made coffee. It had the right amount of froth, wasn't overly runny and the coffee was strong.

Their drinks and ice-cream were also really decent priced and my friends couldn't contain their excitement and ordered some ice-cream at the end even though we were already in a sugar coma. I had a try of it myself and found it a bit too sweet. It was served in a nice little cone.

Definitely recommended going not only for the novelty factor but some of the desserts do taste great, depending on what is available on the day. The only negative was the lack of variety and it is expensive if you have too many. 

No reservations are taken so be prepared to wait during busy times.Please note the dessert train is only open from Friday to Sunday. 

Shop 1, Cafe Court,
The Star,
80 Pyrmont St,
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Opening Hours – Patisserie
Monday 11am – 10pm
Tuesday to Thursday 11am – 11pm
Friday and Saturday 11am – Midnight
Sunday 11am – 9pm

Opening Hours – Dessert Train
Monday to Thursday – Closed
Friday 6pm – 11:30pm
Saturday 2pm – 11:30pm
Sunday 12pm – 6:30pm


Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pancakes on the Rocks - Beverly Hills - Sydney, Australia.

Pancakes on the Rocks

It's actually been a long time since my last visit to Pancakes on the Rocks. It was either not in proximity or we had other new restaurants we wanted to try out, the latter being the most likely case. It has expanded its restaurants to many locations and finally there is one close to home in the south.

Pancakes on the Rocks in Beverly Hills has taken over the Brazilian restaurant that previously occupied that space, on the corner of the very busy King Georges Road. Parking in Beverly Hills can be a nightmare as it is rather limited during lunch and dinner time. However, they offer underground parking which is a plus.

It's a family friendly restaurant that caters for all ages and I find that the food is pretty consistent no matter which location you end up going to. It is spacious inside and what I like about these restaurants is the casual dining atmosphere and pocket friendly prices, but they seem to have gone up a bit since my last visit.

The 'Nachos ($14.95)' is one of my all-time favourites. We asked for the sour cream on the side as me, being the picky eater, does not like sour cream mixed together. I like the crunchiness of the corn chips with the beef sauce, beans, tomato salsa and jalapeno peppers, smothered in melted cheese and guacamole. They were very generous with the portion but unfortunately there was way too much beans and I struggled to find much meat at all.

The 'Chicken Caesar Salad ($15.95)' was delicious. Again, the portion size was very decent. A mix of cos lettuce, bacon, croutons, parmesan cheese and grilled chicken topped with Caesar dressing. I previously mentioned in my other post that my favourite place to have the Caesar salad is definitely Pancakes on the Rocks hands down. I love their dressing and there is just the right balance of flavours that makes it taste really good. They don't drench the salad with sauce like some other places. The only let down was the stale croutons.

Who doesn't like ribs? That glistening glaze on a long strip of grilled 'Pork Ribs ($28.95)' is just scrumptious with a side of wedges and salad. We opt for the barbeque marinade and it's pretty good. If only they put it in the over for a few extra minutes it was have been better as it didn't have that grilled golden brown colour yet, but it's hard to tell from the picture because of the sauce.

By this time we were struggling to finish, but how could we leave without having their renowned pancakes. I prefer thicker pancakes as opposed to the thinner as I like the cake texture. The 'Bananarama ($12.95)' comes as two thick pancakes topped with grilled banana, ice-cream, cream and butterscotch sauce. I'm drooling at the thought of it. The pancakes are perfectly cooked and not overcooked like my past few experiences. A definite order if you like banana.

They serve a mean breakfast I hear but that will be for another time. Will definitely be dropping by more frequently to have their delicious pancakes.

This is my last post for this month before I fly off to Singapore and Seoul, Korea. It will be filled with lots of eating and I can't wait to go to back to my favourite country, Singapore, as I embark on eating my favourite foods such as Hainan chicken rice, clay pot rice and herbal soup. This is my first time going to Seoul so it will be an adventure. I have a  big backlog of posts to go through but I'll be sure to find time upon my return.

507 King Georges Rd
Beverly Hills NSW 2209

Phone no: 02 9580 7220

Opening Hours
Sunday - Thursday
7am - 12am
Friday - Saturday
7am - 1am

Pancakes on the Rocks on Urbanspoon