Monday, May 10, 2021

Holy Crab! Great, meaty crabs with plenty of cooking options

Nicely decorated restaurants with hype and lots of influencer/blogger reviews don't always mean that food is good. I learned that the hard way at Orchid Live Seafood. So I wasn't going to take any risks with my birthday lunch from the wife and humbly requested that we try Holy Crab at their new Capitol Singapore location. I've had their crabs for delivery during the circuit breaker period and they were good so I was pretty excited at the thought of trying it "LIVE"!

We tried a couple of dishes during our time here and we made it a point not to try those we had before. Reviews below:

Live Crab

We really loved the Green Mumba Crab and Sauna Crab in our last order but we went for something new this time. We tried "Otak" and "Orgasmic". Otak was basically coconut milk, sambal and Orgasmic was salted egg. Crab was 2.5kg (or 2.2kg IIRC) and we thought it was really nice they could cook it two styles without any extra charges. This way we can try more dishes, haha. Crab was meaty and had a very full "head" area with soft shell. Otak was tasty and grew spicier as we ate on. Orgasmic I felt was about the same as how most respectable zhi char or restaurants do it except here the clumps were very tasty and complimented the taste profile of the dish. I also had free fried mantous because it was my birthday :p

Huge claws :)

Otak Crab

Big crab, 2 styles!

Yay, double shelled crab!

Salted Egg Crab

Free Mantous for my birthday!

Sawabgani Crabs

This dish is basically fried baby crab with mayo. I actually thought the mayo was quite interesting and quaint. Perfect for an appetizer. 

Great for sharing


Mini Squirters

This dish is basically fried squid with aromatics. Squid were perfectly fried and it was perfect for an appetizer. 

Simple fried baby squid

Nemo in Hot Soup

Nemo in Hot Soup was basically Kuhlbarra Giant Barramundi Belly in fish broth. I had high expectations of this dish because of the ingredients. I've always loved giant barramundi belly and the ones from Kuhlbarra are really prime stuff to work with. This dish exceeded my expectations simply because the taste profile was a well balanced. I expected this dish to either taste too "ang-moh" or "too chinese" with either being normal since in the ang moh soups, heavy styles do tend to take out the essence of the soup while in chinese cooking, the richness comes out too strongly and emphasis is usually on the effort in boiling the broth and generosity of ingredients. Both styles tend to be somehow very conventional so I was very surprised when this dish was well balanced. The broth and sherry worked really well together although I think a mixture of chicken and pork bones were used. Not too creamy, not too overpowering. Fish belly was silky and really tasty. Nice touch to the claypot which kept the soup warm throughout.

Extremely simple soup but so much care to detail!

Actually at $40, this is a steal lah. The ingredients are pricey...

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Simple Batang Fish Stock Recipe (for soup)

The best bones to use for making fish broth is the red grouper bones! In fact, I don't even fry the bones. They go straight into the pot for boiling.

Given the simplicity in preparing a solid fish soup, sometimes I really don't understand why would folks queue and pay top dollar for fish soup. I've been experimenting with different styles of fish soup now and I can share with you that tweaking it to your own preference and taste is important. Below is a simple recipe to get started.
The reason why we usually season the batang fish in fish soup is that the texture is usually not firm enough and sometimes if not fresh might contain a "fishy" smell. My seasoning it, we can improve the texture and taste. Many of you will recognise this as "starchy" texture sort of like the texture you get in heavily seasoned prawns in siew mai.

Steps to create fish broth
  • Get about 500g of batang fish bones. Prepare a few pieces of ginger slices.
  • Pan fry the fish bones in 1 table spoon of oil together with the ginger slices to brown them.
  • Once they are brown, add about 2 litres of water and boil for 2 hours covered. Small simmering flame is enough.
  • This should yield you about 1.5 litres of broth but you add water and make it more diluted depending on your preferences.
  • This will work for other fish bones as well but if you are using red grouper bones, there is no need to brown the bones as there is generally no fishy smell.
  • You can continue boiling up to 3 to 4 hours if you desire a thicker fish broth that is "milky". Shops outside add milk to get this "milky" effect but there is really no need to if you have time.
  • You can also add different vegetables and condiments depending on your taste preference. You can add big yellow onions, garlic clove, fish sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil and so on.
  • I usually add a little salt and pepper with a some chinese wine at the end of cooking process.
  • You can add some prawn shells in if you want to make a seafood stock.
Steps to season the fish
  • Get a slab of batang fillet from the market. The meat should be a nice white colour. If the meat is too brown or bloody, it might not be that fresh. Always get fillets from bigger batang. The meat tends to be firmer.
  • Slice the fillet according to your own thickness preference and remember to remove the bones.
  • Mix a bowl of water with 1 table spoon salt, 1 tea spoon baking soda, 1 table spoon of corn flour. 
  • Add the batang slices into the mixture and season in fridge for about 2 to 3 hours.
  • Wash away the mixture before adding into boiling soup. Batang cooks in about a minute depending on thickeness.
  • Please note that the mixture is my personal preference. I prefer "not so bouncy" kind of texture as I like a little of the natural texture. So do adjust this depending on your preference. Baking soda and corn flour are the ones that tenderise/makes the meat bouncy. Salt draws out moisture from the fish meat. Some folks actually prefer using only salt.
Note:
  • You can use other kinds of fish bones for the soup base. I use red grouper bones alot which adds lots of sweetness to the broth.
  • You can use all kinds of fish for the fish slices. Generally, those with better texture like red grouper, cod and threadfin don't even need to be bathed in the salt mixture. Just add them in directly!
  • Fish bone broth is an excellent soup base for all kinds of seafood based dishes such as mixed seafood soup/broth, pao fan, risotto, yong tau foo and even lobster porridge! Feel free to get creative and apply to more dishes.
Here are a few creative dishes that I uses fish bone broth as a base:

Clean batang fish slice soup

Had some scallops and meatballs leftover from CNY

You can add crayfish too!

Add giant prawns!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Garlic and Herb Baked Mangrove Jack Recipe

Let's face it. Farmed Mangrove Jacks are going to be a regular occurrence because of religious fish release groups in Singapore. In fact, it is now one of the most common fish caught at Changi waters and the reason is that it is probably one of the cheaper fish to release. Such activities won't disappear overnight and is also starting to occur at the Southern Islands side. Some of the fishing boats have already caught farmed fish there.

So what can we do as anglers? I don't think we are able to structurally change culture that fast but one thing we can do is the cull these species as they are able to spread bad genes and diseases to our wild fish. In time, they may also possibly alter behaviours of wild fish. Rather than choose to lament, let's find ways to enjoy our fishing hobby in Singapore.

Hence, below I present to you an easy baked garlic and herb mangrove jack recipe. You can also use it for golden snapper, red snapper and barramundi or rather all fishes even! I use leftover vegetables from my fridge as this is usually a work from home lunch meal and you can do the same too. This way is usually more sustainable for me.

Recipe*

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • Sea salt as desired
  • Black pepper as desired
  • Chopped dill weeds
  • 2 table spoon melted butter
  • Lemon slices
* Feel free to substitute using your own herbs mix like Italian herbs or cajun style.

      Method
      • Pre-heat the oven to 220 Degrees Celsius
      • Lay the fish on a baking tray or pan. Pat away excess water and ensure fish is dry. If your fish is above 1kg, I recommend making some slits on the body to ensure even cooking.
      • Rub herbs, garlic and onion over the body. Do adjust the salt level according to your taste. 
      • Stuff lemon slice, garlic and some salt into the stomach area.
      • Line the vegetables of your choice along side the fish and rub down with herb mix, garlic, onion and salt. Remember to give some space between the vegetables and fish to allow heat circulation. I recommend using more crunchy and solid vegetables such as broccoli, corn, cauliflowers so that they don't dry out too fast.
      • Top off the fish with some melted butter or olive oil. This will give it a good crisp and char.
      • Bake at 220 degrees for 25 mins for a 1kg fish, 20 mins for a 800g fish and 30 mins for a 1.2kg fish.
      • Note that the key to a good baked fish is temperature and quickness. Too long and it will dry away. In fact, you can just use salt and pepper and it will still turn out well.
      Some pictures on preparation and how the final dishes will turn out below:

      Ran out of garlic so used mostly minced onions! A quality roasting pan will make the job easier.

      Done! A very easy meal for two.

      Experimented with fried pork lard. It lent excellent flavour to the red snapper! Note that red snapper is one of the more premium fishes to use for baking. Excellent texture.
      Turned out super crusty and rich taste.

      Crispy skin, juicy flesh
      Perfect doneness!

      Aunty Fishing Pond with Kraken Gear Ah Du

      It's not everyday that you visit a fishing pond in Singapore since there are so many fishing options available. However, that is before the pandemic struck and fishing in Singapore has somewhat been affected by it since local fishing charters seem to be overbooked. Some boats are fully booked for a year.

      So enter paypond fishing!

      Made a trip to the trusty "Aunty Pond" in Neo Tiew. It's a rather quaint and private fishing pond tucked in the country side which made it more rustic and relaxing compared to openly public ones like Pasir Ris Pro Pond or even Gills Fishing.

      I think everyone is quite familiar with the pond in the local Singapore Fishing scene so I'll just post what I learned below. 

      1. Hit the fishes when they are feeding!

      Fish in the pond are not as "artificial" as you think they are. There are certain times where they have adjusted to the water condition and are in "feeding mode". It's very important to make use of this time to bag a few fishes. There are lull periods in between where fish are wary or not feeding. Sometimes, the pond stock might also be low but this is rarely the case these days as angler/fish turnaround is fairly consistent because of the full bookings. Try casting and combing at the same spot. Pond fish do school together. Another theory which I have is pond fish may actually be affected by high and low tides, not in the water itself but maybe the moon phase.

      2. Release of fish do trigger other dormant fish to feed

      This is something I confirmed quite awhile back but saw this so regularly in my last few trips. Release of fish from nets trigger other fish into feeding so don't just be casting to the net area. Try casting at the different spots and holes at the pond. 

      3. Rubbers work and there are new ways of doing so

      Rubbers continue to work wonders at ponds but these days anglers are trying lots of different sizes, colours and methods. In certain ponds where there is depth and less terrain obstruction (Aunty Pond and Ed's Pond do have a fair bit of seaweed and coral), constant retrieve and bouncing is possible. What if the pond is shallow and/or full of weeds and coral? During this trip, Ah Du tried his OSP Back Slide rubber rig and it worked wonders. The key is in the rigging method which allows the rubber to flutter on the drop. I would love to try it with prawns one day though.

      4. Release what net? What fish release timing?

      Take note that Aunty Pond usually releases groupers in the middle "jetty platform" and other fishes are release in the other keep net at the end of the pond. Different fishes have different behaviour. Groupers tend to stick around where they were released while the others do roam around a fair bit. Aunty Pond also doesn't release fishes according to timing but to demand and supply. More anglers equals more release.

      5. Try a variety of baits

      While this is true for luring, it's also true for baiting. Aunty Pond allows Tiao Keng, Tamban, Kembong and all that and they even double "apollo" rigs so go ahead and experiment. Try and see what the fish eats. These fishes are from the fish farms so they generally respond well to fish meat and freshness not essential. They're also very used to bait falling from the surface to them so try imitating these (hint: like back sliding rig).

      Some photos of our catch (mostly Ah Du's catch)

      Barramundi taken on the back slide rig

      Taiwan ngor that was schooling took the rubber close to the edge of the water!

      Mangrove Jacks are very aggressive and will chase your rubber down

      Decent day

      Want to read more about Aunty Pond? Visit 8 reasons why Aunty Pond at Neo Tiew Crescent is one of the best fishing ponds in Singapore.

      Want a quick and tasty recipe for your pond fish? Visit Garlic and Herb Baked Mangrove Jack Recipe.

      Monday, April 12, 2021

      Four Reasons Not to Visit Orchid Live Seafood at HomeTeamNS Khatib

      I've always wanted to try Orchid Live Seafood after seeing various social media sponsored posts and influencer sponsored posts about how good this place is. Saw too many lobster porridge and this "steven chicken" advertisements haha. As someone who loves cooking crustaceans and seafood, especially in seafood broth, I was really looking forward to it. Finally, the day came to celebrate a birthday so we booked the place thinking that we can indulge since it was a special occasion. Initially, the food was kind of average but as we ate, each dish really got worse and really underwhelming for the high price that we paid. Can see why their place is only half filled on a Sunday evening. Below are some reasons NOT to eat there because of the food. Service was average, nothing to complain about.

      1. Pushy servers; micro mini lobsters in the default lobster porridge

      There were about 7 or 8 mini lobsters so you can really have a sense of how small they were since total was about 1kg of lobsters.
      Very "normal" broth. Don't see why everyone is raving about it.

      The servers kept pushing their big Australian lobsters to us which was 1 for 1. Per lobster is $288. We were not keen though as we wanted to eat other dishes and saw the lobster porridge as a side dish. Besides, not everyone ate lobster. So we went with the "1kg lobster, lobster porridge" thinking it would suffice since there were only 4 of us. We were somewhat shocked though when the porridge came because the lobsters were micro mini super tiny! In fact, you can see from my picture that they were spoon sized. I can understand trying to perhaps save abit of cost by using such lobsters but for a dish which cost $100/kg, this wasn't really what I was expecting. We were also disappointed that the porridge was average at best or maybe we were too picky since we do eat quite abit of seafood broth porridge and soup at home. The only ingredient were the lobsters, lumpy bits of rice, a little hint of chinese wine and too much ginger. It can't even be compared to the novel seafood broth/lobster broth soup at kopitiams which are much nicer... Massive disappointment. We didn't even finish the porridge.

      2. Stuff not available on menu or very small

      Didn't impress the parents at all...

      We wanted some noodles... no noodles during weekends. We wanted some crabs which were 1kg and above... sorry, biggest 800g... When we settled on Teochew cold crabs and it eventually came, it was so tiny like about 400g which really didn't justify the price since we are paying lots for just shell.

      3. Black pepper beef disaster & steven chicken

      The worse stir fried beef I have eaten in my life.

      Never in my life had I had such underwhelming black pepper beef at a zhi char stall. The presentation was awful, the size of the meat felt like beef trimmings. Strange chewy texture for some pieces yet too soft and too springy for some. Lumps of corn flour everywhere. This was definitely bad corn flour coating and fire skills which is sad because for a chinese kitchen, these are very basic things. Steven chicken was highly recommended by the server and it wasn't too bad. About above average I would say. It's actually just butterfly-ed chicken drum in tangy sauce. Except for the preparation work, most zhi char stalls can replicate the taste.

      4. White pepper or black pepper crab?

      Head was removed so you can have a better look at the dish.

      So the backstory to the crabs was interesting. Upon realising we wanted big crabs, the server came to us halfway during our meal and told us there was a 1.1kg one that just arrived so we thought ok let's try the white pepper crab. Finally, something worth indulging in! At this point of time, we were feeling quite meh by the dishes already - my parents were complaining the lobsters and crabs were too tiny. So I thought crab should be ok one, most zhi char stalls won't get it wrong. But big shock again... the white pepper crab... was kinda black? So we clarified with the server and they mentioned it was indeed white pepper. It was apparent though that the pepper ratio was quite off and the fragrant smelling white pepper aroma didn't come across well. The crabs were also a tad over-fried with some kind of coating (likely corn flour) and weren't juicy. A pity because it was a good crab.