Best things we ate this year

PHOTO: AsiaOne, The Straits Times, Eat 3 Bowls, Ninja Bowl, PizzaExpress, RedRing Treasures

From a humble chicken cutlet to a mighty seafood tower, here are the culinary finds that bowled us over this year.

Chicken cutlet
By Jessica Lin

What: RedRing Treasures' Double Chicken Cutlet ($5.90)
Where: Food Republic Wisma Atria, level 4, 435 Orchard Road; Gourmet Paradise Food Court, B1-01 HDB Hub, 480 Toa Payoh Lorong 6

This stall's Double Chicken Cutlet is uniquely tasty and succulent, thanks to a 24-hour marination process.

For me, the large cutlet goes best with RedRing's precision-cooked noodles.

And if I am feeling extra hungry, the Onion Flower never disappoints with its crisp exterior and garlic aoli aroma.

Chilli crab pizza
By Tay Hui Zhen

What: PizzaExpress' chilli crab pizza (about $25)
Where: B1-08/09 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road

Photo: PizzaExpress

It's been more than four months, but the mind-blowing moment I tried this is still etched in my memory.

The chilli crab sauce was quite different from that of the real dish - it didn't have the sweetness which I'm not a fan of anyway, so it was a major plus point for me.

Then there was this chilli oil that complemented the pizza very well.

The generous amount of crab meat that came with it and its fresh-tasting crust wrapped this up as the most memorable meal I've had this year.

Photo: The Straits Times

This is a place where you can DIY your own bowl of sashimi rice with your favourite types of raw fish and toppings. There are different sized bowls and eight types of raw fish or seafood to choose from. Premium seafood and other toppings like avocado, seaweed and corn are available too.

What makes Teppei Syokudo stand out is the generous servings of sashimi that is fresh as well. You can also opt to change the rice to salad if you're looking for a low carb option. For raw fish or sushi lovers, this is a great and affordable sashimi fix!

What: Genki bowl from Ninja Bowl ($16; top up $2 for rice)
Where: 15 Duxton Road

Photo: Ninja Bowl

The Japanese-inspired bowls from Ninja Bowl are also known as "healthy bowls" that have a good balance of carbs, protein and fibre. The Genki bowl consists of unagi, roasted pumpkin, beansprouts, onsen egg and pinkled beets. Mix them all up and you get some sort of a Japanese bibimbap! The different flavours and textures make the bowl very tasty.

Chirashi craze: Where to get them

  • Koji’s chirashi don ($17++ with soup and salad) includes Hokkaido rice topped with marinated cubes of scallop, amberjack, tuna, chopped tuna belly, whelk and salmon.

    Mixed-grain rice is available for an extra $1. Add $9 for uni.

    Where: Nankin Row, 3 Pickering Street, 01-42
    Open: 11.30am to 3pm, 5 to 10pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday.
    Closed for Chinese New Year from Wednesday to Feb 22.
    Info: Call 6225-6125

  • Besides trying to get a coveted spot for its omakase meals, diners have been flocking to Teppei for kaisen don, rice topped with generous chunks of marinated fish and tempura crumbs for crunch.
  • The lunch set comes with side dishes and costs $17.60 at Teppei.
  • While the other outlets (Teppei Syokudo at Millenia Walk and Takashimaya, closed from Wednesday to Friday for Chinese New Year) sell the bowl for takeaway at $16.

    Add $8 for uni and negitoro.

  • Other options include a mixed fish and sashimi squid don ($17.80). For an upsized version, order the sashimi cake. Prices start at $40 for a 20cm-wide cake, order a day in advance.
  • Where: Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link
    Open: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday.
    Closed for Chinese New Year till Feb 25
    Info: Call 6222-7363
  • The three-month-old Japanese restaurant by the Les Amis Group features a variety of rice sets for lunch that come with salad, miso soup and dessert.
  • Its kaisen don ($36) includes slices of tuna, salmon, kajiki (blue marlin), hamachi (yellowtail tuna), amaebi (sweet shrimp), ikura and tobiko; and the bara chirashi ($32) has cubed fish such as tuna, salmon and white fish with ikura (salmon roe) and tobiko (flying fish roe). Both sets come with pickles and sushi tamago.
  • Where: One Farrer Hotel & Spa, 1 Farrer Park Station Road, Owen Link, 01-11/12
    Open: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday.
    Closed for Chinese New Year from Wednesday dinner to Feb 22
    Info: Call 6443-3378 or go to www.sushijin.com.sg
  • Sumiya offers a Mix Bara Kaisen Don (set lunch with salad, appetiser, chawanmushi, miso soup and dessert at $18.80, above) with cubed fish such as maguro akami (lean tuna), chutoro, toro, amberjack, salmon and avocado.

    Tuna fans can opt for the Nama Hon Maguro Mixed Don ($30.80) with various parts of bluefin tuna, topped with ikura.

  • Where: Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, 12-02
    Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily. Closed for Chinese New Year on Wednesday and Thursday
    Info: Call 6509-9618
  • Sushi Mitsuya's signature bara chirashi ($50++ lunch set with two appetisers, soup and dessert) features ingredients such as hotate (scallop), anago (sea eel), akami (lean tuna) and boiled ebi (prawn).
  • Head chef Ryosuke Harada adds seasonal offerings depending on availability, such as boiled ika geso (squid tentacles), sawara (Spanish mackerel)and kohada (gizzard shad).
  • Where: 60 Tras Street, 01-01
    Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 11pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday. Closed for
    Chinese New Year from Wednesday dinner to Friday
    Info: Call 6438-2608
  • Those who love salad and sashimi can have the best of both worlds at Japaneseinspired salad bar Shinkansen. Choose from sushi rice, brown rice, soba noodles and quinoa for your salad base. Prices start at $7.50 for one base, five toppings and sauce. (Pictured: Omega Don, $8.80)

    Where: Three outlets at Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay, B1-08; United Square, 101 Thomson Road, B1-60A; and 100AM, 100 Tras Street, 03-22
    Open: 10.30am to 7pm (Ocean Financial Centre, weekdays only), 11am to 8pm daily (United Square and 100AM). All outlets closed for Chinese New Year from Wednesday to Saturday
    Info: www.shinkansen.co

  • Thick slices of raw fish such as salmon, tuna, hamachi and swordfish adorn a bowl of rice topped with a slice of blowtorched salmon belly for extra oomph. A normal chirashi don (above) costs $24.90.
  • The premium chirashi don costs $46.90.

    Where: Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, 04-28
    Open: 12.30 to 3pm, 5.30 to 9pm (weekday), 12.30 to 9pm (Saturday), closed on
    Sunday. Closed for Chinese New Year from Thursday to Feb 22
    Info: Call 9653-6464

Seafood tower
By Candice Cai

What: Captain K Seafood tower
Where: #01-02 Income@Prinsep, 30 Prinsep St

11 food fads that invaded Singapore

  • The buttery pastry has a crispy exterior, and is filled with an oozy salted egg yolk custard.

    It was first created at Urban Bakery Works in Hong Kong in September 2014 and became an instant success.

  • That meant of course that shops in Singapore soon offered their own take on the pastry. It can now be found in French-inspired patisserie Antoinette (priced at $6.50 each) and Italian deli chain Da Paolo Gastronomia ($6.90 for each croissant).

    On March 11, local bakery chain BreadTalk debuted its miniature version of the treat. Its Golden Lava Croissant is a bite-sized snack which costs $1. If you feel like one is not enough, you can get seven croissants for $6 and 12 croissants for $10.

  • The Sunday Times did a blind taste test in February and the winner was Antoinette's croissants.

    The Straits Times food critic Wong Ah Yoke's verdict on the winning pastry: "I like the crispy ends and the pastry has a balanced butteriness."

  • The Cronut, a hybrid croissant and donut, was created by French chef Dominique Ansel at his eponymous bakery in New York.

    It debuted on May 10, 2013, and became an instant foodie sensation on Instagram, attracting long queues.

  • The pastry is fried in grapeseed oil, rolled in sugar, filled with cream and topped with glaze, according to the company's website.

    Queues at the bakery usually start an hour before it opens at 8am from Mondays to Saturdays and 9am on Sundays.

  • In Singapore, you can find the pastry at Da Paolo Gastronomia. Its version is called the Crodo and comes in four flavours: Salted Caramel ($4.90), Cream ($4.90), Glaze ($4.50) and Chocolate ($5.50).

  • Originating in Korea, the seafood tower features up to nine layers of steamers stacked on top of each other.

    The bottom layer is filled with a soup base while the tiers stacked on top each contain a different variety of seafood, ranging from crab and squid to scallops and mussels. Juices from the seafood drip down into the soup, making it more flavourful.

    It is available at Captain K Seafood Tower and House Of Seafood.

  • House Of Seafood launched the seafood tower on June 2015. All servings come in eight tiers, but the portions may differ. The largest portion ($438) serves eight to 10 people while the smallest portion ($228) serves four to six people.

  • Captain K Seafood Tower offers a nine-tier deal ($288.90) for eight people. The smallest seafood tower ($52.90) has three tiers and is meant for two.

  • Fried Korean chicken is known for its thin, crispy skin and moist meat.

    The Korean fried chicken wave stormed New York in 2007 and arrived in Singapore shortly after.

  • At most outlets in Singapore, the chicken is fried twice. The first time is to ensure partial doneness. For the second time, the chicken is fried to make it crispy.

    Kko Kko Nara, one of the first Korean restaurants to become famous for its Korean fried chicken, sells a whole chicken for $30.

  • Many other restaurants, such as casual dining chain Chicken Up, have joined the bandwagon. There is even a home-grown brand, 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken, which opened in November 2009. It sells Korean-style fried chicken drumsticks, starting from $9.45 for three pieces.

  • Jenny Bakery, an institution in Hong Kong which opened in 2005, is known for its amazingly buttery cookies and flavourful coffee cookies.

    Its first Singapore outlet opened on Oct 23, 2015, at 01-2534, Block 422, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

  • Mr Lawrence Lim, 49, managing director of Jenny Bakery Singapore, told The Straits Times his reason for choosing a heartland location: "I chose Ang Mo Kio and not Orchard Road because I wanted to start with the heartland. I want Singaporeans to experience the cookies first-hand."

  • The cookies come in tins. The butter cookies cost $48 and the coffee ones are $50.

    They are made without genetically modified ingredients and preservatives.

  • The Hong Kong-style egg waffle is also known as the eggette. Its Cantonese name, gai daan tsai, means "little eggs", inspired by the waffle's many egg-shaped pockets.

    According to CNN, the popular belief is that the egg-shaped mould was invented in the 1950s by Hong Kongers to make up for the eggless batter. At that time, eggs were expensive as World War II had just ended.

    In Singapore, the eggette is available (from $2.20) at Niceday Dessert, a dessert shop selling Hong Kong and Taiwanese street food.

  • Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taiwan is widely believed to be the birthplace of bubble tea. The beverage was invented in 1988 by Ms Lin Hsiu Hui, product manager for the company. Bored during a staff meeting, she had poured her snack, fen yuan, or tapioca pudding in Chinese, into her tea.

    "Everyone at the meeting loved the drink and it quickly outsold all of our other iced teas within a couple of months," she told CNN.

  • Bubble tea first came to Singapore in 2000. However, the food fad did not last, with demand for the teas, topped up with tapioca pearls, herbal jelly and pudding, waning after three years.

    But just when you thought the fad had dried out, a new wave of bubble tea returned to the market offering quality teas and a wide range of toppings.

  • Taiwanese brand Gong Cha, which means "tribute tea" in Chinese, has the tagline boast, "fit for an emperor". It first came to Singapore in November 2009.

    Interesting flavours include the Gong Cha Milk Alisan Tea ($2.80) and the Apple Black Tea ($2.90). The price of its beverages ranges from $2 to $4.90.

  • Rival bubble tea shop chain Koi, which launched in Singapore in 2007, offers unusual flavours such as Yakult Green Tea ($3.50 for the smallest size). Its beverages are priced from $2.20 to $6.10.

  • This is the ultimate decadent ice-cream milkshake. Created in Australia, this dessert comes in a glass jar, with generous toppings of cake slices, candy floss and marshmallows.

    Patissez, a bakery-cafe in Canberra, started selling oversized milkshakes with brownies and Nutella in July 2015.

  • In the same month, Singapore cake shop, The Benjamins, followed suit. Its cake shakes all cost $16, not including service charge and goods and service tax (GST). Flavours include Nutella and Banana as well as Coffee and Avocado.

    Singapore cake shop Cake Spade also launched its cake shakes in August 2015. The cake shakes are priced from $14.90 to $16.90.

    There are four flavours, including matcha adzuki with green tea ice-cream milkshake topped with matcha goma cake, cornflakes, green tea wafer and red beans ($16.90).

  • Thick honey toast stands out from the crowd with its height. It is topped with decadent portions of whipped cream and ice cream.

    Also known as Hanito in Japan, it originated in Tokyo's Shibuya district.

    The toast gained a Singapore following in 2013, with the support of hipster cafes like Nam's Brewing Thai Tea & Coffee in Amoy Street and Watanabe Coffee in Chinatown Point.

  • At least five cafes offering hanito opened last year.

    This includes Taiwan's Dazzling Cafe, a casual cafe chain that opened its first Singapore outlet in April 2015. Prices for its thick honey toast range from $16.90 to $19.90.

  • Bingsu is the Korean version of ice kacang. Like the beloved local dessert, the Korean treat comprises finely shaved ice topped with ingredients such as red beans, condensed milk and red beans.

    It became popular around March last year.

  • Madam Yun Bo Yong, 44, directing manager of Bing Go Jung in Guillemard Road, said bingsu started in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) in Korea. The king owned ice houses (called Binggo) and he would give military officials ice as a treat. They would crush it and eat it with fruits.

    Local versions come with toppings like oreos and ice cream.

    Bing Go Jung's bingsu cost between $12 and $16, and other places, including O'ma Spoon Korean Dessert Cafe ($11.90 to $18.90), also offer the icy treat.

  • Mookata is a cross between the steamboat and the grill.

    The word mookata is Thai, with moo meaning "pork" and kata meaning "skillet".

    It is a dome-shaped grill with a soup trough placed over charcoal embers.

    There are a few origin theories, with some tracing mookata's history back to Korea.

  • Huay Kwang Thai Kitchen's owner Patrick Ong, 37, whose wife is Thai, told The Straits Times: "What I understand is that during wartime, hungry soldiers in Korea cooked raw meat on their helmets. The Thais adopted this for their version of the grill and added a soup trough."

    However, Singaporean chef Willment Leong, founder chairman of the Thailand Culinary Academy, linked the dish to successful marketing.

  • Having lived in Bangkok for more than 15 years, he said: "I wouldn't term it as Thai cuisine. It's just that Thais like to have barbecue and sukiyaki when they dine out. Thai businessmen thought up this concept to kill two birds with one stone."

    The trend caught on in Singapore in early 2014, with multiple eateries offering different options, such as Charcoal Thai's Mookata Set ($39.95) for two to three people and Happy Mookata's buffet sets at $25.90 per person.

Taiwanese Lu Rou Fan (braised pork rice)
By Deborah Wong

What: Eat 3 Bowls' Braised Pork Rice
Where: Seah Imm Food Centre #01-21

One of my favourite food picks in Taiwan has to be the humble braised pork rice or lu rou fan, consisting of plain rice topped with braised pork, with a delectable savoury dark sauce spooned all over the bowl.

You'll be hard-pressed to find the same quality of this simple dish in Taiwanese eateries here.

But a snaking queue at Seah Imm Food Centre led me straight to Eat 3 Bowls, where each bowl of braised pork rice is topped with minced pork, and slathered in a thick and wonderfully fragrant gravy. Every bite took me back to those rainy nights in Taipei.

Read also: 7 mouthwatering delicacies you've gotta try in Taiwan

It is not a hearty helping, and those with ravenous appetites can opt for their set meals or simply order two bowls of rice.

And for just $2.50 per bowl? It's a definite must-try.

a1admin@sph.com.sg