SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

December 10, 2010

Hard to find simple Nasi Lemak

Filed under: Food,Singapore — Alex @ 9:22 am


It has been many years since I’ve stumbled upon a good simple Nasi Lemak. Simple Nasi Lemak is a term I think I invented myself just few minutes ago. When I was young, whenever my mom told me that we are having Nasi Lemak for breakfast, in my mind the Nasi Lemak would look like the picture I just posted above. Those days, nasi lemak is simply packed in a banana leaf and consisted of rice cooked with coconut milk, sambal ikan bilis, a slice of cucumber, quarter of boil egg and some fried peanuts.

Fast forward to present day, nasi lemak now has evolved to a dish with way more dishes in it. It is not packed in banana leaf but serve on a plastic plate. It has choice of fried chicken, fried fish, otah, sausage and fish cake along with the standard sambal, peanut, anchovies,egg and cucumber.

I still prefer the old version of nasi lemak maybe because of sentimental value. I just like the idea of hot steamed coconut flavored rice wrapped in a banana leaf that gives that special fragrant that a nasi lemak should have. Is so hard to find a good simple nasi lemak nowadays. Maybe people are just too lazy to find banana leaf and take the trouble to wrap it. It is much easier to just serve it on a plate.

I remember when I was a kid, whenever I have school examinations, my dad would normally treat me for breakfast before going to school. On usual schooldays, breakfast is eaten at home with a simple hot milo with some bread and butter. So I kinda like having examinations because I know I will get to eat tasty breakfast before going to school. He would normally bring me to this coffee shop where simple nasi lemak are being served.

Nasi Lemak unwrapped

To me a nice nasi lemak is all about the sambal. Sambal is chili paste cooked with belacan. Some use tamarind and as simple as it sounds, it is not easy to get the perfect taste of sambal for nasi lemak. Is like a musician playing a piano. Everybody hit the same notes but not everyone can make a classical piece sound the same.

I was pretty satisfied with the taste of this simple nasi lemak that I bought in ABC Food Court. It cost me SGD1.20 and a glass of hot Tea-O (SGD0.60), I was able to relive my previous experience eating nasi lemak before going to school. The only difference is after this meal, I don’t have to go for school examination but I can go back home to sleep after filling my tummy.

November 27, 2010

The infamous Sin Huat restaurant

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Singapore — Alex @ 1:56 pm


I have to admit that I never heard about this restaurant named Sin Huat before. While I was in Thailand, a Singaporean friend of mine sent me a link to a You Tube video. The video was a segment of the famous Anthony Bourdain show featuring him on his “makan” expedition in Singapore and Sin Huat restaurant was featured in that segment. One of his guest was See Toh, the Singapore “makan” guru who also has his own TV show called Makansutra.

I decided to search the net after watching the video to get more information about this restaurant. To my amazement, Sin Huat is a restaurant that is famous and yet infamous according to some reviews I read. To begin with, the owner of the restaurant is given the nick name Food Nazi. There are claims that he is really arrogant and likes to dictate what you should eat or order. If he doesn’t like the way you order or behave, he will not sell anything to you. His pricing for the food is really incredibly expensive. For a no air condition kopitiam kind of settings, the price of the food can go as high as eating in a 5 star gourmet restaurant. The worst part is, you need to wait for an hour or so just to get your food. This is not due to the fact that the restaurant is packed with customers, but is more of short of staff. The owner is kind of like a one man show but occasionally helped by the wife.

Despite all that, many people still claim that Sin Huat restaurant serve the best Crab Bee Hoon and other Chinese kopitiam dishes. Anthony Bourdain and See Toh clearly think so too. So I have to admit with all the tales, bad or good it made me really curious to eat in this restaurant. Of course after seeing Anthony Bourdain and See Toh praising the food in the You Tube video made me even more determine to try it.

What deter me from doing it is that I would probably end up being harassed by the food Nazi himself, pay exorbitant price for good food that is similar elsewhere and wait for hours just to eat his dishes. So I began to think really hard should I do it or not. After deducing all the pros and cons, I decided not to go after all. I think I would feel moronic just to do it and I don’t think I will regret for not trying it ( this is just me and I don’t mean anyone who ate there is a moron ). I heard his Gong Gong is selling for $25 a kilo. That’s like few times more expensive than other places. Customers of Sin Huat claims that his price is reasonable because he has the best chili dip for those boiled seafood.

Few days past and I’ve totally forgotten about Sin Huat restaurant and it’s funky tales. But on one typical evening, I received a phone call from a friend ( the same dude that gave me the You Tube video ), and he told me not to eat anything as he will “tapow” ( a Cantonese word for take out ) two dishes for me from Sin Huat eating house. I then asked him what’s the occasion and he just told me nothing. I didn’t press further but I still find it odd. Why would someone buy me dishes that would cost 4-5 times more expensive than other restaurant. Since he was insistent, I just accepted his offer. I would like to imagine that he loves reading my blog so much and he wanted me to write about this restaurant. Lol.

One hour later, he asked me to go down from my apartment and passed me two heavy boxes of food from Sin Huat. He then told me to enjoy and just drove off. I went upstairs feeling really excited as I get to try the infamous Sin Huat dishes tonight. I told myself to be really open minded about it and not to associate all the negativity about the restaurant with the food.

First thing I did was to take out the camera and snap some pictures. Placed the food on some plates and after picture taking is feasting time.


The crab bee hoon in the white box. A lot of crab roe and still didn’t get the aroma that normally turned me into a hungry ghost like other favorite food of mine. Placed it on a plate and started eating. Tasted pretty good but I will give my verdict at the end of the post. We will move on to the next dish.


Another dish that my friend got me was this garlic prawn dish. The prawns were really fresh and really big in size. This is just like 1/3 of what was in the box. Another thing about the Food Nazi that he does not care about portioning. There’s no way to tell him is for one person or for 5. His portioning is always big according to my friend.

Maybe this picture you can see clearly the size of the prawn. Just looked at the length compared to the chop stick.

The two dishes that was given to me by my friend I would say is good for 4 people. While tasting the crab bee hoon and garlic prawn, I was already making mental note about this blog post.

My final verdict I have to say that the crab bee hoon is good. But I don’t think is good enough for the owner of Sin Huat to charge those exorbitant prices, being treated bad ( didn’t experience myself but read from forums ) and the long wait. Is definitely something you can give it a miss and you will not miss anything. If the price of the food is the same as other restaurant, I would go eat there once in a while.

As for the garlic prawn, the taste is over powered by garlic. Just too much garlic and can’t taste other ingredients. A Thai pepper dish with garlic prawns will beat this dish anytime of the day.

I sometimes wonder if the owner of the restaurant is doing some sort of business tactics to get people to go to his restaurant out of curiosity. Maybe he is just an eccentric person but I don’t think his food is that good to give him the rights to act like a genius chef.

So for those of you who are reading this blog post, it is not my intention to discourage any of you who would like to go give it a try. My blog has never intended to sound like a food critic as everybody has their own taste and preferences. I have to admit that I was really happy to have tasted the food from Sin Huat. Most likely the reason being that I got to taste it for free. I wonder how I would react if I were to pay for the food myself. This is a question that I know definitely will never be answered.

November 13, 2010

The Banana Leaf Apolo

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Singapore — Alex @ 11:08 am


After coming back from Thailand, I got to slow down a little on having big meals. Sometimes is hard to do as I just love food too much. Sometimes it is almost cruel to think that indulging in good food can lead to sickness and obesity. Why all the tasteless foods are the ones that can make us healthy.

After taking a few days break, I decided enough is enough. I will go to my favorite banana leaf restaurant in Little India. Been patronizing this restaurant for many years now.

Some of you might not be familiar with the term “banana leaf restaurant”. Is basically an Indian restaurant serving you food on real banana leaf. North Indian and Indian Moslem restaurants do not cut it as banana leaf restaurant. The Indian Moslem restaurant are commonly known as Mamak restaurant here in Singapore and Malaysia. So it is quite safe to say that banana leaf restaurants are mostly Southern Indian cuisine.

I guess the desire for me to visit Banana Leaf Apolo Curry House on that was my mouth lacked the presence of spices. My body need to get spiced up to function normally. Also maybe I just wanted some Indian food due to the Deepavali fever.


Arrived at 2.30 pm to avoid the crazy packed lunch hour crowd. There were still quite a few customers as most of the lunch crowd have gone back to their offices with a full stomach.

I already knew what I wanted before even stepping out from my house. But I still love to go over to the food counter to look at those delicious Southern Indian dishes. Seen here are some flower crab curry and the tasty prawn masala. I wish I was there with a big group as we can order ADT. ( Any Damn Thing ).

Some more dishes by Banana Leaf Apolo. Mutton masala and some other dishes. This restaurant is famous for its Fish Head Curry. It is not displayed in the food counter as it specially prepared in the kitchen.

indian-curryFirst came the banana leaf, then followed by plain rice.

curry-vegetablesThen followed by the vegetables. You don’t need to select the vegetables as it only has 2 choices. Typically in a banana leaf restaurant, you can add as much rice and vegetables as you wish by paying it only once. The curry gravy and papadam are also free. In Apolo, it cost SGD3.50. So is actually a good deal if you can eat a lot.

Generous serving of papadam ( Indian spiced chips ). Taste really good with rice and curry. Add as much as you wish.

masala-chickenThis was what I wanted when I decided to visit Banana Leaf Apolo. The spicy and super delicious chicken masala. It cost SGD4.50.

rassamThis is rassam. I not sure if it rassam qualify as a soup. Normally soup is a dish where it can be eaten by itself. I seldom see people just consume rassam all by itself. Rassam is good to eat when you pour it all over your rice and curry. Taste of rassam is sourish ( I think is tamarind ) mixed with aromatic Indian spices. My Indian friend told me that rassam can cure sinus. I’m not sure if it is FDA approved and I don’t care. It just taste so good.

After sucking all the gravy from my chicken masala ( now chicken bones ) and finished meal, I need to sit down for a few minutes to let my stomach settle down. When it is time to pay, you need  to go to the counter. My meal cost me SGD10.70. Is quite pricey for Asian standard but hey, Singapore is a first world country.

While waiting for my change, I just took more pictures of awards given to Banana Leaf Apolo. I saw the picture of Mel Gibson being displayed. I think I’ve mentioned in some of my older post about restaurants using celebritiy pictures to “impress” customers. I for one are not those who will be impressed. What makes all these celebs knows more good food than I do?

If I were to own a restaurant one day, I will put pictures of older women or housewives customers. These are actually the kind of customers that we should trust as they are very picky when it comes to eating out and they been cooking for years. I bet if I were to hang all these random housewives pictures, the restaurant would probably have a lot of curious customers staring at the wall and trying to figure out who the heck are these “famous” women.

>>Click here to visit Banana Leaf Apolo website here<<

November 5, 2010

Happy Deepavali to all

Filed under: Chit Chat,Singapore — Alex @ 2:48 pm

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody, especially the Hindu around the world a very Happy Deepavali. In English it is known as the festive of lights.

My blog title “Spicegasm” is actually inspired by Indian food. I was exposed to Indian dishes at a tender age of 6 and it was surely love at first bite. In Singapore and Malaysia, this celebration is a public holiday. I get excited as a kid when Deepavali is around the corner even though I’m not a Hindu. I get excited mainly because I get to visit my Indian friends open house during Deepavali. Secondly it is a school holiday.

Some of you might be curious what open house means. Open house is when there’s a celebration like Deepavali, my Indian friends would “open” their house for friends to come visit. Free food will be served during your visit. You do not really need an invitation. As long as you are a close friend to those who are celebrating the auspicious day, you can just drop by with an empty stomach. I remember  I used to make a list of houses to visit during Deepavali. First open house to visit was a good friend of mine whose mom that cooks really well. I can still remember her mom’s chicken and mutton curry eaten with home made dosai. ( rice flour Indian pancake laced with Ghee ). I would normally skipped the cookies and snacks like muruku to save space in my stomach for her mom’s dosai.

Those were the good old days when life is simple and pure. I’m not sure if this open house culture is still practice as much at present. Maybe as an adult, we tend to be more conscious of everything we do. I have to admit I feel a little bit shy to go visit some Indian friends of mine as an adult. There’s so many excuses on my mind to deter me from visiting them. The excuses are like maybe they are not celebrating or worse, maybe they think I am there for the free food. When we were kids young and innocent, my main goal was really to pay my friends a visit. We were trained to be harmonious in a multi racial society. Okay, maybe the dosai and chicken curry did play a role in motivating me to be harmonious but I’m sure you get my point.

Oh how I missed the good old days. I can still remember the TV channel would be airing Deepavali musical specials and also Tamil box office movies. Tamil movies are not to be mistaken with Bollywood films. Tamil movies have their own superstars like MGR, Kamala Hassan, Rajinikhan and Prabhu Deva. My Indian friends used to be very amused with me as my knowledge on Tamil movies were pretty good. I just love to learn other people’s culture. I really make sure I pay attention to what they have to teach me and remembers it really well. I think if you respect other people’s culture and genuinely want to learn, is easy to remember.

I don’t get to watch Tamil movies as much now as I’m always traveling. Some parts of the world does not air Tamil movies. Last 2 months ago I was in Singapore and was flipping through the TV channel as I got bored with the reruns of HBO and Star Movies. I stumbled into this channel call Vasantham. It is a Tamil language channel ( maybe sometimes have Hindi movie ) produced by Mediacorp of Singapore. This channel is specially dedicated for all the Singapore born Indian. Showing on TV that day was a Tamil movie starring Prabhu Deva.

Watching the movie reminds me of my Indian friends who were big fans of his. They swore on their lives that Prabhu Deva dance better than Michael Jackson. I remembered a Tamil movie blockbuster during the late 80’s called Khadalan ( means Love in Tamil ) and one of the songs were a big hit among the Indian communities around the world. We used to get into argument like whether Indian songs would be received by the masses who are non Indian. I told them that is quite impossible for other people to adopt the Indian music. Even for me a guy who loves Indian food and have quite good knowledge on Indian culture like me still preferred the US and UK pop songs.

They told me that the songs in the movie Khadalan was really new and fresh and not the same like those old Tamil movies. The song writer for the movie was a young man named AR Rahman. They forced me to watch the movie and I still gave them the same conclusion. Prabhu Deva and AR Rahman will not be popular outside of the Indian community, period!

So fast forward 20 years later. Scenario number one – AR Rahman is now an award winning composer who wrote the score for the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire. Scenario number two – because of the success of AR Rahman, I decided to “wikipedia” Prabhu Deva to get more information. To my surprised, he did became popular around the world. He is known as Benny Lava to the non Indian communities. I will post a video which made Prabhu Deva famous world wide at the end of my post.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my Indian friends a Happy Deepavali and admit that I was wrong about the Indian music and film industry. You guys were right and I am actually very happy for them. Now they can say that is not only the Indian food that makes Indian culture recognizable, AR Rahman and Prabhu Deva are way up there too.


September 23, 2010

Briyani rice in Indian restaurant

Filed under: Food,Singapore,Travel — Alex @ 4:22 am

My last post I was raving about how easily one can try different ethnic dishes in Singapore. I normally get my Indian food in Little India, Apollo Curry House. Whenever friends from abroad come visit, this is where I normally would bring them. Mel Gibson ate here once when he came over for some private business and it was featured in the newspaper. I am not using his name to justify why this is my favorite restaurant. Just because he is a famous actor doesn’t mean he knows good Indian food right. I think is much safer to trust my recommendation rather than his. I might not be a famous actor but I am no woman beater for sure.

This time I did not go to Apollo Curry House in Little India, as I felt a little bit lazy to take the MRT. I’ve noticed an Indian restaurant near where  I’m living for a few years now but I’ve never gave them a try. So based on my experience on identifying a decent food joint, I would say Brinda’s will not disappoint. They have been operational for a few years now and if the food is not good, I don’t think they can afford to pay the rent.

Just took a 7 minutes bus ride and I’m there. I invited a friend to come along so that we can order more variety of food if need be. Brinda’s does not operate like a normal Indian babana leaf restaurant. It is more like a fast food restaurant but instead of burgers, you get authentic Indian food.

As we entered, were greeted by friendly staffs at the counter with uniforms. I tend to avoid fast food joint but since I’m already there, I would just give it a try and not be picky. Saw the menu at the back of the counter and one staff was explaining the set meal at the same time. I decided to order the chicken briyani rice set and my friend opted for the mutton version. It cost us SGD6.30 for each and with an additional of SGD1, you get a drink of your choice.

It took them less than 5 minutes to serve us our choices of food and I gladly paid them. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, my friend ordered an extra serving of chicken masala as it looks really good and he can’t resist it. Since his set is mutton, he wants to taste the chicken too. I’m not worried as he is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of food. He can be like the character in Eraser or the Terminator. If the food is good, he will happily declare, “I’ll be back”.

This is my chicken briyani set and it comes with cucumber raita ( cucumber with yogurt ), some dhal sauce and curry sauce. Papadam was also served, but most people who is not familiar with Indian food call it Indian chips. If you look properly, there’s a big piece of chicken buried inside my briyani rice. Also hidden in the rice was a boiled egg. What a nice surprise, is only an egg but I felt like discovering some hidden treasure.

I think the food is good and worth the money. But if you are having Indian food for the first time, I suggest you do it in a non fast food type of restaurant. In non fast food type of Indian restaurant, you just need to sit down and they will serve you. If you can really eat, you can top up the non meat item like rice, vegetables, papadam and gravy without paying any extra. I’m not sure Brinda’s allows that. I am not sure how much I paid in those non fast food restaurant before. I wasn’t into food blogging then and I didn’t pay much attention. I just asked my friend after the meal if he would come back to Brinda’s if he craves for Indian food one of these days. He just said, “I’ll be back”!

Blk 162, Bukit Merah Central, #01-3533
Singapore 150162
Tel  : 62746327

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