Yemeni Dish in Singapore: Lamb Mandi

One of the best things about living in the Southeast Asia region is the ability to travel across the different countries, as most are a 2-3 hour plane ride away (if that). I’m currently based in Thailand (Bangkok) but have been traveling to Malaysia and Singapore a lot… and immensely enjoying the food.

More than enjoying the eating, I’ve been learning a lot about foods from different cultures, more than I did when I was living in San Francisco, New York, D.C., or LA. It seems so strange how some Asian countries are more diverse than the United States or even London (pre-Brexit).

Each region’s local food is mind-blowingly delicious — especially in Malaysia and Singapore. Malay and Singaporean foods are heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian and there are many dishes with roots from China and India but unique to the region. (More on that later… actually, there will be a piece published shortly about Malaysian food I wrote – yay!)

But what a lot of the more developed cities of the region (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, are the top three) do well, are foods from various countries (outside of China and India). For example, Bangkok — believe it or not — excels in Italian food. Pasta, antipasto, even mains such as osso buco are extremely delicious and a lot of establishments even import brick ovens from Italy for their pizza.

Singapore has pretty decent Middle Eastern / Mediterranean communities and those whom know me, know I loooooooove Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. From the spices: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, saffron, sumac to the aromatics: mint, parsley, dill, oregano… I can keep going but I can’t get enough of the warm, deep, flirty flavors of Middle Eastern foods and the fresh, bright, acidity of Mediterranean foods.

The other day in Singapore, I had the tastiest lamb mandi, a Middle Eastern dish so I just have to share.

lamb mandi
Byblos Grill

Originating from Yemen, mandi is a one plate dish consisting of a protein (usually beef, chicken, goat, or lamb) with rice cooked with a special blend of spices. The menu description reads: roasted lamb marinated with saffron and Arabic spices served with mandi rice and homemade mint tomato sauce

In actuality, it was the most tender leg of lamb cooked in this clay pan-like thing with this lovely fragrant rice. I couldn’t get the flavors out of my head, so I googled recipes and tried with chicken at home. It was good but not great – I’m blaming the cooking method (traditional mandi is cooked underground) but I’m hoping practice will make perfect 😉 Recipe is after the jump.

By the way, if you’re ever in Singapore, Byblos Cafe is highly recommended. Not pictured are the four other dishes my dining companion and I ordered… for lunch. There were only two of us and we ate enough for like five haha

Byblos Grill
14 Bussorah Street Singapore 199435
11am – 12am
+65 6296 8577

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Need to properly update, but quickly, a recommendation. Pulled from my review on Facebook. I am not ashamed to admit I ate this many times during the one week duration of my stay — even ordered takeaway (which is called dapao or tapao).

nasi lemak
Non-takeaway nasi lemak from Village Park

The flavors and textures ebb and flow through your mouth until the final bite; why can’t this dish be never-ending?

Can’t get enough of the sweet, salty, savory, crunch with soft fluffy rice… the nasi lemak ayam goreng at Village Park is so magical, I consumed — on repeat — more times than I care to admit.

Easily one of my top three dishes of all time #legendary

PS: to all the complainers, dapao omits dining-in woes — check photos, even delivered, it’s the best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a looooooong time. But yo, this isn’t a Michelin white table cloth spot; manage expectations properly 🙄

Village Park Restaurant (Lunch only)
No.5, Jalan SS21/37,
Damansara Utama,
47400 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03 – 7710 7860

https://www.facebook.com/Village-Park-Restaurant-1639483826264341/

🚨🍣New Sushi Spot Alert 🍣🚨

Found this place that just opened through a wonderful food friend… and oh my god it was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in Japan.

From the attention he pays to every single detail in his shop (design, hand towels, and even specialty toilet paper), to ceramics, his choice of staff all reflects in his stunning food.

His shari (sushi rice) was literally perfection. His otsumami (small plates) surpasses any of the places I’ve eaten before.

Above are only a few of the photos and the notes, not as extensive as I’d like (too preoccupied enjoying my meal).

6 hour steamed abalone in its juices
Hokkaido shishamo caught only in October served two ways (nigiri and gunkan)
Ankimo with mizunomi (ankimo steamed with the mizunomi omg the texture!!!)
Of course nodoguro

…and the sushi was 100%. Not a fan of cured neta that is pungent, or shari that is too sour (I can name a handful of super famous spots that are aggressively flavored)

On and on I can keep going but honestly, I only remember being blown away. Asking trillions of questions like I always do. And not retaining most of the information… hashtag OLD.

So, I will leave this post with my friend Ash’s succinct – but vulgar – description (and this guy knows. his. shit.)

Japan’s ‘Fast Food’

Well, it’s not technically ‘fast food’ but more diner food, there is a genre of chain restaurants called ‘fami-resu’, short for family restaurants. Like a Denny’s.

Anyway, there is a chain Royal Host and I’ve heard from locals Royal Host is super yummy but they aren’t really located in areas I spend time. The other day I went to my very first Royal Host and suffice to say, it exceeded expectations and blew my mind.

Look at my lunch!!!!!

img_5231

This was chicken with a soy (sauce) butter sauce topped with a creamy, melty, egg, served with french fries and rice and soup or salad, all for around $7USD.

Not only was it delicious, the cost performance was 100000000%. Aside from lunch deals, there are tons of other dishes ranging from Japanese (rice bowls, udon, Japanese curry) to Western (clubhouse sandwiches and all day breakfasts). Everything looks so tasty I want to eat through the menu. I wish there was a Royal Host near my house, I would seriously eat here everyday.

No one really talks about fami-resus because it’s not fancy but they are underrated imo. Definitely recommended for second or third time visitors to Japan.

Troll the menu here → click this
Denny’s and Jonathan’s are also highly recommended!

 

File under: yikes

yikes

A few highlights:

Endless crowds, unknown neighbors and unruly behavior have drained many residents here of their sense of “omotenashi” (hospitality).

They now say that the hordes of overseas tourists who keep coming to the ancient capital are eroding the quality of their traditional lives.

In 2003, when only 5 million foreign tourists visited Japan, the government initiated the Visit Japan Campaign to double the number.

The number of visitors to Japan topped 20 million in 2016, and a monthly record 2.57 million foreign tourists came to the country in April.

If things go as the government plans, the foreign tourist number will reach 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.

Yikes. Read the entire thing here

*Side note: I rarely go to Kyoto anymore and when I do, I go with those who know the ins-and-outs. People who have been traveling there for centuries and have family relationships with businesses and restaurants. As warm and hospitable as Kyoto may seem on the surface, Kyoto people are known to be cold and unwelcoming.

Glorious Gyoza

gyoza
Salt. Fat. Acid.

via my IG

“Salt. Fat. Acid. Gyoza is my favorite flavor profile and probably the reason I eat shameful amounts 😳 A whooooole mess of latergrams of all the glorious gyoza in my Camera Roll. Some may or may not be taken at inappropriate hours 💁🏻🥂🍷🥃 餃子どんだけ好きやねん。この半年食べた量と種類、、、かなりヤバイw”

I really do eat too much gyoza. So much, I wrote 1,600ish words on gyoza in Tokyo. Do read if you’re interested. The piece is on Eater here.

Mona

Ikkaku: the best chicken to ever meet your mouth

Last summer, I traveled Fukuoka, Osaka, and Kyoto and during the Osaka leg, a girlfriend I’ve known for decades took us out in her hometown. We walk into this random building in the Umeda district of Osaka, head up to the 12th floor (?) or somewhere super high. Anyway, I would’ve never known about this spot unless she told me about it.

Turns out, this chicken place is a really famous.

Ikkaku, originating from the Shikoku region (wayyyyy down South of Japan) had an outpost in Osaka and because the population is higher in Osaka, Ikkaku became an Osaka staple. The style of chicken in Shikoku is a garlicky, peppery chicken with a kick but it’s not heavy at all and there is a huge cult following of this prep.

Adam (the guy I was traveling with and a super talented chef — he’s opening a spot in SF but more on that when he opens) and I were blown away and we instantly fell in love with the chicken. I thought I’d have to go alllllll the way back down to Osaka or even visit Shikoku but it turns out, there is an outpost in Yokohama!!! (About 30 minutes away from Shibuya.) The other day I of course traveled and it was every bit as delicious as I remember.

If you’re coming to Tokyo and not planning a trip to Osaka, Ikkaku is definitely worth the trip to Yokohama. Plus, the Chinatown in Yokohama is pretty legit and has super tasty foods!

Seriously. A Japan must.

Ikkaku Yokohama (the one closest to Tokyo)
Drop this into Google Maps↓
〒220-0005 Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, 西区南幸2丁目15−1
Look for: TINOビル6F — and it’s on the 6th floor
045-317-1708

Go super early to avoid the long lines or make reservations (Japanese is required)

What to order: oyadori (dark meat) and hinadori (white meat) ONLY then go to other places to fill up. The chicken is the only good thing there, tbh.