Sunday, 20 January 2013

Adventures in Coffee Part 4 : Realcup Single Serve Cup - A better K Cup alternative?

The truth is I stumbled across Realcup Single Serve Cups while looking around for cheaper Keurig K-Cups. The claim is they are 100% compatible with Keurig K-Cup machines. The other claim is that they deliver a better taste experience than the K-Cup brands licensed under Keurig. Intrigued by the claim and the affordable price, I had nothing to lose by giving it a try, so I did. 
Being in Singapore, I shipped it in using a 3rd Party shipper (i.e. Hopshopgo) from the US. Slightly over a week later, a DHL delivery man passed me the package.  


As you can see, it was well packaged so the cartons inside were in great shape.
Below you can see, I ordered 8 boxes of Realcups. To enjoy economies of scale, it really isn't worth your while to import to Singapore unless you get at least 6 or more boxes of single serve coffee capsules.
The Loot!
I'm not a fan of light and mild coffee, so I made sure I ordered mostly bold and extra bold coffees. Below pic shows the brands that are under the Realcup umbrella: Martinson's, Brown Gold, Marley Coffee and Higgins & Burke (Tea).
Clockwise from top left: Higgins & Burke Earl Grey Tea, Martinson's Dark Roast, Brown Gold Brazilian, Brown Gold Ethiopian, Martinson's French Roast and Marley Coffee's Variety Pack 

The Realcup - the real deal?

The only way to find out is to taste the coffee. I decided to start with the Marley Coffee Variety Pack. A total of 36 single serve cups that gives you a mix of 3 flavours (as below):
"Hey Mon, No Caffeine No Cry"
If you are wondering why the name sounds familiar. Let me affirm the family connection. Marley Coffee is run by Bob Marley's son Rohan. I'm not sure how Reggae and Coffee go together but I'm not complaining :) As you can see on the lids of the cups above, they come with cool names: Lively Up! (Espresso Roast),One Love (Medium Roast) and Get Up, Stand up (Light Roast). Marley Coffee even offers a Blue Mountain Coffee in a RealCup but I didn't get it yet and it is priced higher than these.  
I fired up my trusty Keurig B40 machine and popped in the Lively Up! Realcup into the K Cup slot. After the water was ready, I proceeded as normal to dispense my cuppa. 
As the coffee was filling up the cup. I noticed the espresso was aromatic and the fragrance was welcoming. From the picture below, you can see it is quite a dark colour.
The taste was pretty good actually. Far from disappointing, I found it slightly bolder than some of the bold coffee K Cups I had in the past. Definitely doesn't taste bad like instant coffee. Great first impression so far!
If you notice the pictures showing where the Realcup is punctured below, it resembles a normal K-Cup. 
But my tongue isn't as sensitive when it comes to coffee so I'm not sure if the better taste claim is valid. Apparently, Realcup employs a patented filter technology that allows more natural oils to flow into your cup to give a more authentic coffee flavour.
It will take me some more time to try the other Realcup flavours but if it is anything like the first one, then I would be pretty content. My wife did try the Higgins & Burke Earl Grey Tea and is starting to like the taste. I will try to update when I taste more of them.

Verdict: Realcups are shaping up to be a great value for money coffee option for Keurig K-Cup Machines. There are currently 4 to 5 brands under their stable, here's hoping they expand on that with more choices for the consumer, which is always welcome.

For a greater variety of RealCup options available, you can check out Alternative Coffee Solutions. They are also available at Amazon US too but you have to search the Brand names because some of them are not labelled as Realcups. 
Do share with me your experiences, thoughts and comments if you have any. As always, thanks for reading ! :)

Friday, 28 December 2012

Restaurants: Peperoni Pizzeria @ Greenwood Avenue

After all the recent articles on Biryani, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to do a post on Italian Food. Peperoni Pizzeria is run by the Les Amis Group of restaurants and concentrates on delivering hearty, affordable Italian fare. I haven't been there for some time so no time better than the present to see if they're still maintaining their standards. Luckily for me, they are. Bringing up the usual suspects!

Funghi Portobello con Pollo ($20):  
aka Deep fried whole Portobello with sautéed chicken fillets in red wine sauce. 
What a great combo! Whole Portobello mushroom coated with batter and deep fried to crispy perfection and drenched with a savoury wine sauce and topped with chicken fillets which were quite tender (as far as chicken breasts go) and rocket lettuce. What's not to love? Not for the faint hearted though, some friends of mine have commented that this is too tasty for them. Well, more for me then! 

Calamari Fritti: ($14)
aka Deep fried squid rings, with lemon, mayo and arrabbiata sauce
The version here is lightly battered so the outer layer is slightly crispy yet the squid is done with the right level of springiness and tenderness. Goes really well with the accompanying sauces.
Pizzas:   ($19 for 9 inch, $24 for 12 inch, $50 for 21 inch (family size))
Frutti di Mare  
First up to the plate is the Frutti di Mare (aka Seafood Pizza). The toppings include Prawns, clams, scallops, squid rings, garlic and fish on a thin crust pizza base. Seafood toppings were ample and fresh. I feel this is the most value for money pizza option. All the pizzas have fixed prices here i.e. a Large 12 inch pizza is priced at S$24 whichever flavour you choose (based on the standard menu).     

Our second pizza of the meal has Shitake mushroom, ham, artichokes and black olives as toppings. 2 Words come to mind: "Simply Tasty!". For Pizzas, families can order the 21 inch (it is huge!) to share with the option to do Half and Half too (2 flavours).
Al Nero di Seppia ($23)
Fancy name for squid Ink pasta with Squid rings, garlic and tomatoes. I find the version here nicely balanced: squid ink is not overwhelming, garlic enhances the flavour. A winner in my books! Although it doesn't exactly look like what is displayed in the menu on their website.
Panna Cotta ($9)
You could probably call this a western version of Tau Huey(soya bean curd). However, this is a creamy eggless pudding, flavoured with vanilla grains. Not too sweet, light and the texture is velvety smooth. Yumz!

Frangipane ($12)
Another dish that looks very different from the photo displayed in the menu. It is described a warm, fluffy almond cake with sweet raspberry sauce & served with smooth vanilla ice cream.
You can see from the photo above that it looks like there are 2 layers, the darker bottom half is where the almond flavour is most intense. Not sure if it is because it is denser and sinks to the bottom. Not fluffy as stated, a pedestrian effort considering the dishes that preceded it. The vanilla ice cream  makes up for it.

The restaurant does serve a variety of belgian beers so I couldn't help myself and ordered the most outstanding name that my eyes came across. Satan Beer!
Not as light as a weissbier but goes down really smoothly. A devilishly refreshing end to the meal.

Taste Verdict: Good news that the standards here are still being upheld (desserts notwithstanding). Still one of my go-to places for pizza and pasta and the ambience is still great. For a group of 4 or 5, budget about S$35 (minus drinks) per pax. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Bokhara Biryani and Kebab: Dum Biryani Journey's End?

Last week, I made my way to North Bridge Road in my continuing quest for the best Dum Biryani in Singapore. Destination? Bokhara Biryani and Kebab. It's a small restaurant (5 or 6 tables that seat up to 4 people each) along North Bridge Road opposite Kandahar Street whose specialties are Dum Biryani and Kebabs.
Interestingly, Bokhara is named after a village in Uzbekistan along the Silk Route and the style of cooking originates from there. Just how good is the food here? As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or in the Biryani in this case), so bring it on!!

Mutton Dum Biryani
I ordered the Mutton Dum Biryani as usual. Here's a look at their rendition:
A large piece of bone-in mutton masked by yellow basmati rice arrives on a white plate. What I noticed immediately is that the portion of rice is smaller than that served at the other Dum Biryani places I tried and detailed in the past on this blog. You wouldn't go hungry but it is definitely not as filling. Portions aside, the taste lived up to expectations! The bone-in Mutton was quite tender and it takes little effort to get the nicely spiced up meat off the bone. It isn't as tender as the Mutton served at Bismillah but is more tender than the version served in Anjappar. The meat is quite tasty and goes very well with the rice which is slightly salty, this is quite similar to the rice served at Anjappar. Price wise, this is the cheapest of the lot, weighing in at a more wallet friendly S$6.50 (its competitors cost more than S$8) but then again you could argue that the competition serves up larger portions. My take is that if you prefer to eat less carbohydrates, then this is a great option. 
They also serve you raita and dalcha which go quite well with the Biryani:

Reshmi Kebab
Bokhara also serves Kebabs so we were recommended the Reshmi Kebab by our servers.

As seen above, the plate comes with 5 pieces of flavoured barbecued chicken. The chicken meat was moist and tender except for the bits that were charred. Taste wise, think slightly salty with a nice smoked flavour and slightly sour undertones. Apparently the meat is marinated with cream and egg before grilling in the Tandoor. A great accompaniment to the Biryani but some may find it a little expensive at S$10 per plate.

Taste Verdict: The Mutton Dum Biryani did live up to expectations! The Bone-in Mutton was very tender and flavourful. Paired with the equally flavourful rice is an excellent rendition of Dum Biryani. 
I give it 4 and a half out of 5 stars. This ties it with Bismillah's version  and deservedly so. Taste-wise, it is a slightly different style but both are equally good. It is the cheapest of the lot but some may say it's because the portion is the smallest. The Reshmi Kebab was a tasty revelation. I will definitely try one of the many Kebabs there the next time I drop by.  One tip I have is to avoid going at friday lunchtimes (unless you order and eat fast enough) as the staff do go for mosque prayers. 
That good that my ex-colleague was seen doing a Biryani takeaway for the wife. :)

749 North Bridge Road, Jalan Kledek  (Corner shop facing Kandahar Street Near Masjid Sultan) Singapore 198717
UPDATED 04/02/2014: (they have moved to a new location, see below)
2 Owen Road, Opp Serangoon Plaza, Fortuna Hotel Building, Singapore 218842
Phone:  83997795
*Great news for those who find it inconvenient to go to the restaurant. They also do delivery. Depending on the area you are in, the delivery charges ( range from S$5 to S$7) and the minimum order amount (S$30 to S$100) vary. Do note they do charge 10% service charge on top of the total amount too. For more information on delivery, check it out here

Mutton Dum Biryani Shootout (in order of preference): 
Mutton Dum Biryani: Bismillah & Bokhara (tie) followed by Anjappar
*For purposes of keeping the variables constant, I have only concentrated on Mutton Dum Biryani. 
I have not been extensively tasting other types of Dum Biryanis (Chicken, Fish etc) that the restaurants serve due to the fact that I can only have one at a time. I may do updates at a later stage when I try out the Chicken Biryanis the next time I go to these places. I did return to Anjappar once after posting about it and tried the Country Chicken (aka Kampong Chicken) Biryani which I found to be excellent and much better than their Mutton Biryani. May post an update in future when I have time.

That kind of sums up the Dum Biryani quest for now. Hope you have enjoyed reading the related articles and had a chance to taste for yourselves. When I get wind of more popular options, I will definitely sniff them out to try. Till the next post, Enjoy your food!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Trudeau Aerating Pourer aka All you need is the air that you breathe

This marks the first wine related article that I have posted since I started this blog. Yes though I named this blog as such,  I haven't gotten round to the wine as there's so much to write about food :P
Well, better late than never and this post deals with "wine and technology", so there!!

Those who savour their wines would know that aeration ( sometimes referred to as "letting your wine breathe") is an important process in terms of enhancing a wine's flavour. In some cases, there can be a world of difference in taste when you compare an aerated wine with the same wine that is unaerated. Traditionally, to aerate a wine, most people would pour the wine into a decanter (it resembles a large lab bottle with a big wide base so as to expose a greater surface area of the wine to the air)  and leave it to breathe for a certain period of time (usually at least 30 minutes or longer ). 2 problems about this method:

  1. You have to wait a certain period of time for the wine to be aerated
  2. If you can't finish the wine in the decanter, you had to pour it back into the bottle if you wanted to save it for another day

Lo and Behold! Enter the Trudeau Aerating Pourer, the pocket sized (ok I admit you need a bigger pocket) dynamo that you can use to impress your wine adoring compatriots with. Here's what the box looks like:

The package is sturdily constructed, professionally packaged and oozes an air of sophistication. Flipping open the lid, you would see the aerating pourer unit well padded:

They even provide a stand (the black coloured base). An additional picture to give you a better idea of its size:

How does it work? Attach the base of the unit securely to the top of your wine bottle such that nothing spills out and just pour. It is designed to fit on standard wine bottles. When you pour the wine through the aerator, you will hear the air circulation process and your glass will be filled with wine that has bubbles in it. Presto! Instant aeration.  Some people claim that using this product is as good as decanting a wine for 15 to 30 mins using a decanter. See the video below for how it works:
Taste Verdict: Does it actually work? Well, I cannot say I have a well trained tongue but even I am able to tell the difference between the aerated and non-aerated version of the same wine and to me, it tastes better. 
Here are some reasons why I like this product so much:

  • It is very portable: you can easily bring it along to wine gatherings, picnics etc. 
  • Easy to maintain: just rinse with water and dry
  • You can aerate wine by the glass: The rest of the bottle can be stoppered and kept for another day if you can't finish the wine in one sitting
  • It is very affordable. ( less than US$25)  

I whole-heartedly recommend this to wine drinkers who want an easy and effective way to aerate their wine. Remember to Drink Responsibly. Salut!

Where to get it:  Amazon

Monday, 23 July 2012

Anjappar Singapore: How Dum can I get

My ongoing quest to find the best Dum Biryani in Singapore led me to Anjappar Restaurant at Race Course Road. Anjappar Singapore is the local franchise of an Indian Restaurant Group famed for serving authentic Chettinaad cuisine and has many overseas branches. They do serve a whole range of different kinds of Dum Biryanis including more exotic ones like Quail and Turkey Biryani.

To be objective and to have a better comparison with the competitors, I had to try the Mutton Biryani first.
It came in a familiar serving method (see above), with the rice and meat and hardboiled egg all in a metal bowl.
I emptied the contents onto a plate for more convenient consumption. I discovered the mutton came in bite sized chunks (as below).
Most important, how was the taste? I don't know if it is because I had high expectations after hearing from friends and colleagues who frequent the place and sing the praises of how good the food is, but I was kind of disappointed. The mutton meat wasn't very tender and was on the chewy side. And to me at least, it didn't taste as if the meat chunks were really cooked together with the rice. The saving grace was the rice which was slightly moist and nicely spiced: slightly salty and you can taste the different kinds of spices as if they were layered.  A Biryani Rice done in a different style from its competitors and which is more complex. Overall though, it is still a very good meal.

I discovered a new dish which we ordered based on the waiter's recommendation which is worth mentioning : Golden Crab!
Normally I don't order seafood dishes in Indian Restaurants because I usually concentrate on the meat dishes but this was a welcome discovery. The crabs were covered in a golden brown paste which is spiced to whet the appetite. I'm not very good with spices so I can't tell you what spices are used but just know that it complements the crabs very well.

Taste Verdict: I give the Mutton Dum Biryani 3.5 stars out of 5 just on the basis of the rice. Pity the mutton meat was not tender else I could have given a higher score. It is priced at S$12 per portion which is not exactly cheap. How does it compare to Bismillah Dum Biryani or Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant's Dum Biryani? It stands out with its own identity but for now at least , I still feel Bismillah edges ahead of the other two. The Golden Crab is a good discovery! Will definitely be back to try other dishes of theirs.

Where: 76-78 Race Course Road, Little India Conservation Area

Opening Hours:  (Daily) 11.30am–3.30pm, 6.30pm–10.30pm

Monday, 14 May 2012

Bismillah Dum Biryani - The Best Dum Biryani in Singapore?

A recent weekday lunchtime saw me being adventurous and I instigated a few of my colleagues to follow me on this jaunt to unchartered territories i.e. Dunlop Street in the quest for the best Dum Biryani. Readers of this blog may remember my previous  post on Al Azhar's Dum Briyani

Anyway, the taxi meandered through the long and winding roads (thanks to all the road diversions caused by the construction of the yet to be finished downtime line MRT) finally getting to our destination - An unassuming shophouse unit opposite Fragrance Hotel at the junction of Perak Road and Dunlop Street. Unassuming if you discount the red banner on top of the shop that proclaims that if you do a google or yahoo search for the best Dum Briyani in Singapore, you would end up here. 

We made our way to the corner table in the back nearest to the kitchen area and waited patiently for our orders to be taken by an elderly chinese man, who was busy taking orders and bringing drinks to the occupied tables. This nearly had me doing a double-take to check if we were in the right location. My early apprehensions were laid to rest when I saw the Uncle bringing plates of Biryani and baskets of Papadums to the hungry customers. Those who know me, know how much I love Mutton so its a no-brainer that I ordered the Mutton Biryani while a few of my companions went for the Chicken Biryani.  Pictured below is the Mutton Biryani :
Quite a sizeable portion as you can see, the Basmati rice is garnished with Fried Onion slices and comes with a Hardboiled egg and a small saucer of yogurt chutney ( I think). You don't need to dig much to find the mutton, there were four big chunks of mutton encased in the rice. Close up of a Mutton piece below:
Now to the most important part: The taste!  At first glance and taste, you might think it resembles fried rice in some aspects. This rice is "deceptively" spiced i.e. the initial mouthfuls won't make you think it is spicy hot but it grows in intensity the more you eat, a slow burn. The Mutton, on the other hand, is so tender that it almost takes no effort to separate it into smaller pieces with your fork or spoon. The inner parts of the meat are slightly reddish. It is nicely spiced, not overly salty and has a slight sour taste (I'm guessing that there's yogurt in the marinade). The yogurt chutney helps to keep your tastebuds interested and prevent you from getting too "Gelak". Now complement this with papadums and you have a winning combination! You can definitely taste the effort involved in creating this dish. 
As a bonus, the dish is not oily and is probably the healthiest Biryani I've tried so far :)

My Colleagues who tried the Chicken Biryani also gave it the thumbs up. When we were paying up, the owner also recommended for us to try the Kebabs, not forgetting to put in the comment that Lonely Planet rated their Kebabs higher than their Biryani! Oh, more things to try in the future. Here's a view of the menu:
A word of warning that this is not the Biryani that most people are used to in Singapore, the kind where the meat is slathered in curry gravy. There is NO curry gravy, ok? The faster you can get that into your head, the better.  

Taste Verdict:  Definitely a keeper, if you love Dum Biryani, this place comes highly recommended.  The Mutton Dum Biryani is excellent but at S$9 a plate isn't cheap (Chicken Biryani is S$7) but considering the effort involved and the sizable portion, it is definitely worth a try. I give it 4 and a half out of 5 stars. Is it THE best Dum Briyani in Singapore? I can't say so till I've tried the competition. But as it stands, it is one worthy candidate.

Bismillah Biryani
50 Dunlop Street (Located at the junction of Perak Road and Dunlop Street, opposite Fragrance Hotel)
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm (Closed on Tuesdays)


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Newsflash: Taiwan Instant Beef Noodles are OFFICIALLY back in Singapore!!!

To all fans of Taiwan Instant Beef Noodles (yep, the ones I mentioned in my earlier post), Kee Chiu!!! (Raise your hands in the air in Hokkien dialect). Let me show you a picture that will bring a smile to your face..TA-DAH!!
I spotted this in NTUC Fairprice AMK this evening and just had to share this with all those who have been deprived of this locally for so long. Most of us had to depend on friends or family or ourselves going to Taiwan and importing whole cartons back. Others resorted to paying people who made a business out of parallel importing these noodles to cash in on this niche in order to get their fix. Well ladies and gentlemen, wait no longer, rush down to a Fairprice closest to you to see if they have it in stock.

For so long, we have been deprived of this that I felt a great sense of liberation! I'm not sure if this is a temporary arrangement or here to stay, all I can advise is grab it while stocks last!! Yes, it is pricier than before at S$3.75 a bowl (a 50% increase over the price it sells for in Taiwan) but isn't it worth your while to get it here and save more space in your luggage to bring back other nice stuff from Taiwan the next time you are there? :-)
Price : S$3.75 per bowl
Where: NTUC Fairprice supermarkets (depending on availability)