My favourite restaurant in Singapore

My favourite restaurant in Singapore

A lot of people ask me my favourite Korean restaurant is in Singapore. My answer is not a Korean restaurant but a Korean/Chinese restaurant. I found a restaurant called “Dong bang Hong” by accident on Joo Chiat Road about two years ago when I moved to the East Coast Area. Whenever I have cravings for Korean food, I head  to this restaurant. Dishes that I order are not your typical Korean dishes but modified Chinese dishes such as Jja jang myung (짜장면-炸醬麵) and Jjan bbong (짬뽕)

Jja jang myun is served with a handmade noodle and black bean sauce. It’s believed to have originated from Chinese migrants living in Korea.

I made the sauce for the jja jang a few days ago and instead of serving it with noodles, I served it on a bed of rice.

How to make jja jang sauce:

Ingredients – 3 potatoes, 2 onions, 1 carrot, 1/2 zucchini, 1/6 cabbage, 1/2 cucumber sliced thinly, 200g pork mince,  200g prawns (meat only), 1 pack of Korean black bean sauce, 2 tbsp rice wine, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, sugar, pepper, ginger powder, dried prawn powder, 1/2 cup potato starch water, 2 cups of water.

  • Prepare all vegetables and prawns by chopping them into 1 cm cubes and put them in a separate bowls.

  • Mix the pork mince in the rice wine, add a pinch of salt, pepper and ginger powder then set aside. This is to reduce the smell of pork.

  • Add the vegetable oil to a wok on a medium heat. Once the oil is heated up, add the Korean black bean sauce and cook for 5 minutes.

  • In a separate frypan, cook the pork mince in vegetable oil for 5 minutes. Then add potatoes and onion and cook until they are almost done. Add the rest of vegetables and cook another 5 minutes.

  • Add the vegetables to the black bean sauce and season with salt and sugar. I kept adding sugar until the sauce was no longer bitter. (I must have put at least 5 tablespoons of sugar). Pour 2 cups of water and boil for 10 minutes. If you prefer, you can use stock instead of water. (I didn’t have time to prepare the stock so I added a tablespoon of dried prawn powder to enhance the flavour). Add the potato starch water to thicken the sauce.

  • Serve the jja jjang sauce on top of cooked rice and add some sliced cucumbers to garnish. Hmmmm, now I am hungry again!!

If you haven’t tried jja jang myun, definitely head to the Dong Bang Hong restaurant first before cooking the dish so you get a sense of what the finished dish looks and tastes like. Whilst you are there, check out their jjan bbong – it’s another favorite of mine.

In Korea, someone invented a bowl that has a divider in the middle of the bowl. This is so you can eat both jja jang myun and jjan bong at the same time. That’s because they are both so good tit’s hard to just order one without the other.

Dong bang hong restaurant

Address: 92/94 Telok Ayer Street, #01-01 Far East Square, Singapore
Tel: 6327 9036 (close Sundays)

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

There have been a lot of activities in the balcony garden last two weeks. More seeds arrived from Korea and I have been busy planting. Now I have baby chicory, broccoli, kale,  Chinese cabbage,  red cabbage, and raddish. It should only take 2-3weeks to grow and I can add them to my salad.

They are really simple to grow. All you need is a piece of kitchen towel, a bowl and some water.  In the instruction packet, it said to water them 2-3 times a day with water spray. I started off with baby radish first. Only a few more days to go and these little baby sprouts are going into my salad!

Next one is baby Chinese cabbage, like the ones used in kimchi. Instead of growing in a bowl, I am growing them in soil to see how big they get. I am curious to see how they will  look in 3 weeks.

Now some updates on the ones I planted in the beginning of February.

  • My Thai cucumbers are growing really well. It’s ready to be transplanted to bigger pots. I just need to find some space on my balcony.

  • The Korean perilla plants are looking really healthy. The outer leaves are almost ready to be picked  but I am going to resist and wait for them to grow a little taller. A little creepy crawly got to one of my leaves already which taught me to check the back of the leaves more frequently. I thought I was only one eying the perilla leaves…

  • The most exciting result this week is my cucumber. I harvested one cucumber  already a few days ago. When I cut it in half, the skin looked and felt really thick but they were sweet and refreshing. According to my research, you need to pick the first vegetable early, so there will be many more. The name tags keep falling off  so I not sure which cucumber this is exactly but from memory  I think  it’s the seeds I bought from Malaysia.

  • My information appears to be correct because after I picked my first cucumber, a few more started to appear.  In the past, I haven’t had a lot of success with cucumbers in Singapore. I thought it was just the weather but now I think I found the secret. Cucumbers need lots water and calcium.  I learnt that crushed egg shells are a great source of calcium. All you need to do wash and  dry them and put them through a  spice grinder to turn them into powders.

  • Cucumbers have both male and female flowers. The cucumbers grow from the female flowers. To help them along, I have artificially hand pollinated the female flowers by cutting back the surrounding petals of male flowers and dabbing it inside female flower.  The picture above is two days after the female flower has been hand pollinated. Today I had a look at  the cucumber and it’s now half the size of my hand.

  • Finally, I have been picking lots of cherry tomatoes from my garden. It’s not enough to have a salad with but it keep us smiling everytime we get to taste a real tomato straight off the vine.  🙂

family tree of Gold fish bun

family tree of Gold fish bun

For my birthday present, I received an interesting book which illustrates how some Korean and western food originated. Translated, the tittle of the book is: “Even the golf fish bun has a family tree”. It basically means, there is a story behind all types of food and dishes.

I’ll translate and share some of the stories on Korean dishes with you over next few months beginning with a Korean dessert called ho dduk (호떡-胡餠).  It’s a round, flat pancake filled with sugar and peanut. You can find ho dduk being sold by street vendors in Korea during autumn and winter.

Apparently, ho dduk originated from countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. Traders brought the snack via the Silk Road through China before finally reaching Korea. Back in  those days, ho dduk was only for the rich or king’s family as wheat flour was rare and the technique of using yeast was new to Koreans.

There is a proverb in Korea: “There is a fire at the ho dduk store” which is used to describe when something is very noisy. According  to 1920’s newspapers articles there were lots of reports of fires starting in the ho dduk shops. Back then ho dduck was fried on an open fire. In addition, many of the owners were Chinese. So the saying came about because no-one knew what the Chinese were saying (perhaps “fire fire!”). To the Koreans it was just a lot of noise. Funny, huh?

My aunt sells both gold fish bun and ho dduk in LA so I asked her for the recipe. Its usually a 3 hour process as you have to wait for the flour to rise but I will show you a short cut version. By the way, the recipe my aunt gave me has a cup of Korean rice wine (so ju).

All you need is a packet of ho dduk pre-mix from a Korean grocery shop. The best thing about this is you don’t need wait for the flour to rise.

Inside the box, there is one packet of yeast(red packet), flour mix(orange packet) and sugar mix(brown).  All you need to add is 250ml of water and some vegetable oil.

How to make it ho dduk:

  • Take the yeast from the ho dduk pre-mix packet and place in a medium size bowl. Add 250ml of warm water and mix well.

  • Pour the ho dduk flour mix into the bowl and kneed for 5-10 minutes.
  • Prepare the sugar mix in a bowl.

  • Grease your hand with the vegetable oil and divide the dough into 10-12 small balls.
  • Flatten the ball and make a dimple in the middle. Then add 1-2 teaspoons of the sugar mix. Seal the sugar mix in the dough by folding the dough over the dimple.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable of oil on medium heat to a frypan, then place the ball into the frypan and let it cook for about 30 seconds.

  • Flip the ball and flatten it with a spatula until it’s round and flat.

  • Allow it to cook for a minute on one side and then flip to the other side to cook another minute.

  • Remove from the frypan and let it cool on a paper towel.

Here are some pictures from my ho dduk class I conducted last week. Happy cooking!

PS: Thank you for all your emails and comments. If you post questions/comments on my blog, everyone can join in and share their experiences.  For the next two weeks, I am giving away a mystery Korean ingredient for the two most interesting questions/comments on each blog. This applies to replies from Singapore and Malaysia. I look forward to reading your questions and comments! 🙂

Lazy weekend meal

Lazy weekend meal

When I am too lazy to cook and I don’t to want eat out, this is what I put together – Noodle salad with wasabi sauce.

I chop up some lettuce, capsicums, cucumbers and sesame leaves and cook some buckwheat noodles. You can also use any other left over vegetables in your fridge. 🙂

Add some prawns on top!

Mix together some rice vinegar, wasabi paste, sesame oil, sesame seeds and sugar to make a quick and tasty wasabi sauce.

It makes a very healthy and delicious meal, and best of all it’s all done in 10 minutes!

Sun du bu class

Sun du bu class

Yesterday’s seafood silken tofu stew (he mul sun du bu jji ge – 해물 순두부) class was all about perfecting Korean stock and home made chilli oil.

When the stock is made with fresh ingredients such as seafood, meat, vegetables or any combination, I find the food is  much more tastier than just using ready made stock cubes.

We also made radish salad to go with the stew. It’s a refreshing salad which is perfect for hot summer weather like Singapore. It requires great skills in cutting radish in julienne shape, so I provided a peeler which cuts in strips (a little bit of cheating I know but it saves a lot of time). The peelers are available at Daiso and its worth investing the princely sum of $2.00.

The best part is putting it all togeher and tasting what everyone cooked.  The jji ge was better than ones you taste in Korean restaurants in Singapore! We made so much that  there was enough left over to take home to the family.

Thanks everyone for joining me yesterday, I hope your families enjoyed the left overs! 🙂

PS: I love to read your comments/question on each post. Instead of sending me an individual email, please leave a comment so we can share with other readers. Thanks!

Garden Journal – new baby plants

Garden Journal – new baby plants

Since my last blog on  balcony gardening 101, the number of my baby plants has doubled. My new year resolution for 2011 was to grow more vegetables for my husband and I.

I have been recycling all the plastic bottles and planting new seeds every time I get a new bottle or container. In two or three months time I should be able to harvest a whole variety of  fruit and vegetables including Korean melons! 🙂

I am so proud of my baby coriander below. I never had success before but with coriander seeds I bought in Thailand, they germinate like weeds. I thought that I could harvest them after a few months, but they are growing much slower than I thought. Two months and only 10cm tall.

The next picture is of perilla plants. I haven’t had much luck finding these in Korean grocery stores so I am hoping I can be self sufficient.  We use the leaves to wrap around bbq meat. It’s funny how some grow  faster than others. I have transplanted 3  little ones into a bigger pot.

The radish is also growing very well. It is a root vegetable so it shouldn’t grow too tall. I read in my gardening book that I can add more soil around the lower stem for stronger roots.

Additional family members that I have recently planted include Korean berry king tomatoes and Thai cucumbers. As the weather is still nice and cool(for Singapore standards anyway), everything is germinating well!! I am still figuring out how to perfect tomatoes by trying different types of tomato seeds. Now I have ones from Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Korea… Let’s see which one survive the Singapore weather the best.

Korean berry king tomatoes

Thai cucumbers

Lastly, I have only one cucumber on my cucumber plant. It’s growing in a funny shape (not sure why) but I don’t care, I am just waiting for it to be a little bigger so I can have a bite! 🙂

Point and Click

Point and Click

My husband arranged a private photo lesson as my birthday present. I have a little point and click digital camera. I couldn’t believe how wonderful the food looked when you know  the tricks of the trade. Can you believe that food magazines and books use hair spray on food to make it look amazing? Very disappointing… I promise all my photos are genuine.

My teacher and I started using a white plate with strawberries and blueberries.  It was a lesson in colour contrast and lighting to create a 3D effects.

Next was a plate called Jap che (잡채), Korean vermicelli noodles with vegetables. This was interesting because it was not like the strawberries and blueberries. It was hard to capture  the textures and colours.


If you are interested in photography, check out Mark Stennett Photography at www.markstennett.com.  Thanks to Mark for being patient with me!  By the way, I need a new camera, don’t tell my husband!! 🙂

Not another rice cake soup please

Not another rice cake soup please

Without family, Chinese New Year (gu jeong – 구정) seems like just another public holiday.

When I was living in Sydney, I began to forget the importance of Chinese New Year, because being in a western city the focus was always on the calendar New Year (January 1). It wasn’t until I moved to Singapore 7 years ago, I rediscovered how important this holiday is. It is a time when the whole family comes together to celebrate.

One of the most fun customs during gu jeong is receiving money from the parents and relatives who are older than you.  Everyone dresses in Korean traditional costume (han bok -한복) and  the children bow to their parents. In return, the parents give the children money in white envelopes -Se be don -세배돈.

When I was living in Seoul, we used to go to my grandparents on gu jeong. I had 12 cousins at the time and I was the oldest child (and only girl) in the family. We all lined up as if we were in an army and had to bow to our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Afterwards, we used to wonder what we were going to do with all that money.

In terms of traditional food, one dish you must have on gu jeong is rice cake soup (dduk guk – 떡국). In the olden days before we celebrated birthdays eating dduk guk marked the time when you became one year older. It’s funny, when we were young, we wanted to have 2 or 3 bowls of dduk guk at a time so we could get older really fast. These days I try to avoid eating it so I can stay young!

I don’t usually cook dduk guk as normally I would be spending gu jeong with my parents who would make it, but this year I made a nice batch of the soup to start the year of rabbit off with lots of good luck.

How to make dduk guk (떡국):

Ingredients: 1/2 bag rice cakes, 1.5 L beef stock,  a handful of finely chopped spring onions, 2 eggs, 1 tsp seaweed, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, salt, white pepper

  • I prepared 1.5L beef stock (or anchovy stock is just as good) by boiling beef bones in a pot for one hour.  I strained the stock and skimed the fat off the top. Nice thick beef stock!

    • Once the stock started to boil, I added the rice cakes and boiled for another 5 minutes. You can buy the rice cake from any Fairprice supermarket in Singapore.

  • While the soup was boiling, I separated one of the egg whites and yolk and fried both separately on low heat and cut them julienne style.
  • I seasoned the soup with 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp of fish sauce and some salt. I then cracked the other egg into the soup.
  • I served the soup in a bowl garnished with the fried eggs (both yolk and white), diced spring onions and seaweed.

Isn’t the soup pretty? The egg whites and yolk definitely brings out the colours and makes the boring gu jeong rice cake soup sumptuous!  As we say in Korean “Se-he bok man yi bak u se yo! 새해 복 많이 받으세요!” (Happy New Year!)

Win a bag of CJ goodies

Win a bag of CJ goodies

Last month, I was invited to an event organised by CJ Korea one of the largest food companies in Korea.  They found me through Google (how did we ever survive without the internet?!)  and at the time it sounded like some kind of some product promotion.   CJ  Korea is also known as Cheil Jedang. When I was growing up, Cheil Jedang (제일 제당) was known for selling sugar, however over time they expanded to other types of Korean food.

When I realised CJ Korea was Cheil Jedang, I was very excited and honored to be invited by a such a reputable Korean company and be a part of the event. Different food bloggers were invited to experience Singapore food  made with Korean ingredients. I was so excited that when I got home I called my parents to tell them all about it!  🙂

All Fairprice stores are now carrying a lot of CJ products and Cold Storage also carry their frozen dumplings. I find these days that it is getting easier to access Korean ingredients and  it is much cheaper than buying from Korean grocery stores.  I have tried most of their products and  I highly recommend them – especially the dumplings!

To celebrate Chinese New year, I am giving away $50 worth of  their products. All you have to do is email me a photo and short description (1 sentence) of a Korean dish you cooked using one of CJ’s ingredients.  Please email to info@nickyskitchen.com.sg by 20 March 2011. The most mouth watering and delicious sounding entery will win the goodie bag. This giveaway is only available to Singapore residents.