min.i.kin

min.i.kin

noun. a young person, especially a young woman; a small or insignificant person, thing or amount;

adjective. diminutive or miniature

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Black curry? Go! Go!

You would have heard, seen or eaten Japanese curry. Usually a light brown sweet sauce, with onions and carrots inside it. However, it is not common to see black curry.

Well, dark brown. Hidden at the basement food hall in ION Orchard is Go! Go! Curry.
You can check out their website.  http://www.gogocurry.com.sg/

First good thing about this place is, dedicated seating area, so you don’t have to search and fight for one. They share seating area with the neighboring stall.
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Beside it is huhu.Udon. I really like the way they name their shops, so adorable.

Don’t bother with the individual servings if you are dining as couple or in a group. Just get the Grand Slam, which can feed 2 people.
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A normal single serving cost already $12.50.  For just $18.50 (that’s just $6 more), you get 2 servings of white rice, topped with generous amount of yummy curry sauce. There is a piece of crispy chicken and pork katsu each. One egg, 2 small sausages and one breaded prawn. Not to mention the huge mountain of shredded raw cabbage.
It puzzles me why they serve only one prawn instead of 2. But strictly speaking they didn’t mention it is for 2 people, and I suppose it is a large serving for a huge eater!

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Never fails to satisfy my palate.

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They have cute bowls for kids (and the young at heart).  Yes, I ate from this bowl.

What spinach and Popeye taught us

In this season of Lent, I have decided to give up eating all kinds of meat (from warm-blooded animals).  This change in diet caused me to feel dizzy on many occasions.  It took me quite a while to realise this could be due to my low-iron diet.

I was researching on food with high iron content, and I vaguely remembered spinach is one of them.  If you do a little search on ‘spinach’ and ‘iron’ on Google, some very interesting things turn up.

Many people will associate spinach with… Popeye the Sailorman!

Image from Comic Book Resources

And the story goes something like this: Popeye was given his first spinach in 1932.  Rumour has it that the creator of Popeye chose spinach for its high iron content, which makes Popeye strong.  Some 60 years before Popeye was born, in 1871 a German scientist Emil Theodor von Wolff published his work claiming that spinach has 10 times more iron than other leafy vegetables.  In was not until 1937 before other scientists realised von Wolff mis-placed the decimal point.  Spinach does not have that much iron after all.

Some people pointed out this story is untrue.  While the article written by von Wolff does exist, we cannot be too sure if the inflated iron content was really due to the error in decimal point placement, or was it purely due to the experimental setup back then.  As Dr Mike Sutton pointed out, spinach was given to Popeye for its high vitamin A content.  Dr Sutton is a criminologist and he wrote an article debunking the story of Spinach, Iron and Popeye (click to read the article).

Image from Developing Diplomat

Spinach does have high iron content.  Unfortunately, it also contains some substances that inhibits the uptake of iron in the body.  Tofu, cereals, potatoes are good sources of iron, so are oysters and mussels.

Whether or not the story of Popeye is true, Popeye had brought many positive influences to society.  And the most important impact is children don’t shun spinach as much.  Recent study showed that children eat more vegetables after watching Popeye cartoon.

From scientific point of view, I think Popeye’s story taught us to be more critical in the quality of research.  Many research publications out there are terrible; mostly they don’t conduct enough experiments to support their theory.  It taught us to be critical of our work, so that we can be confident that our results are real.  Because your findings can very well be world changing.

To end this post, I bring you…

Ingredient of the Day: Chicken Egg

This was supposed to be posted similar time with the post on how to make perfect hard boiled eggs, but I never got to finishing this, till now.

I attempt to answer some mind boggling questions about chicken eggs. But not chicken or egg first.

White or brown?

The two most common colours of eggs we see in supermarkets are white and brown. In Singapore, brown eggs are the most common; we hardly see white eggs, except at atas (premium) supermarkets. I used to think that white eggs are better because they usually cost more, and partly because I always see them using white eggs in angmoh cooking shows.

However, there is actually absolutely no difference between brown and white eggs in terms of nutritional values, taste, texture etc.. They are identical except for their colour. Nutritional value of the egg is influenced by the feed the hens are fed with.

(Photo taken from http://hiporganicmama.blogspot.com/)

Colour of eggshell ranges from pink to green to blue. The pigmentation is genetically determined and deposited on the shell during egg formation in the oviduct.

Why does the egg yolk turns greenish gray when overcooked?

(Refer to my earlier post on How to make the perfect hard boiled eggs)

The short version:
The sulphur in egg white reacts with the iron in egg yolk when the egg is heated. They react with each other and *BOOM*, they form ferrous sulphide, which is a greenish black precipitate. Hence we observe the gray coloration on the egg yolk.

The (very) long version:
I actually found a research article written in 1920 on “The Formation of Ferrous Sulphide in Eggs during Cooking” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1258902/), and I was very excited when I found this article (sorry, it is part of my occupation). The experiments conducted by the researchers were so simple, and the results explained the strange phenomenon. This is why I always love classic research papers. They demonstrate how science can be so simple and elegant.

Almost a hundred years ago, scientists have noticed this strange phenomenon and it puzzled them. Quoting the part on what would know be known today as the ‘introduction’ of the article:

It is a matter of common experience that on prolonged cooking of an egg in its shell a greenish black coloration is produced on the surface of the yolk.

It is also well known that if a so-called “hard-boiled egg” be immersed in cold water immediately after cooking, the green color is either not apparent at all, or is much less marked than is the case when the egg is allowed to cool slowly.

In this article, they identified the culprit that gives the greenish black coloration – ferrous sulphide. Through a series of experiments, they discovered that some sulphur compound in the egg white decomposes when heated, producing hydrogen sulphide gas. This gas then reacts with the iron in egg yolk to form ferrous sulphide.

Interestingly, although both the egg white and yolk contain sulphur in similar amounts, only the egg white produces hydrogen sulphide.

They also found that soaking the egg in cold water immediately after cooking simply prevents the formation of ferrous sulphide, by stopping the decomposition of sulphur compound in the egg white. If your egg was overcooked to begin with, soaking in cold water is not going to help.

Best Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore

When angmohs come to Singapore, one of the local dishes they must try is the hainanese chicken rice.  And I believe most people would point them to either Boon Tong Kee or Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Their chicken rice might be good enough to fool the tourists, but both these restaurants serve trashy chicken rice. The chicken meat taste blend, tough and dry, the sauce is just salt and no fragrance from the chicken, and the rice taste like plain rice .  Not to mention miserable portion and the exorbitant price.  You are better off eating any random chicken rice at hawker centre or foodcourt; they probably taste about the same.

It wasn’t the same 10 years ago.  That was the first time I tasted Boon Tong Kee, and it was the best plate of chicken rice I ever had at that point.  One day after school, my classmate brought me to the outlet in Katong.  The chicken meat was juicy and tender, together with the sauce and rice, it was really damn good!  But their quality suffered with increasing popularity over the years. It is saddening to see the quality being compromised when the brand is established.

Another chicken rice stall that is worth discussing is Sin Kee Chicken Rice.  This stall used to be at Margaret’s Drive hawker centre, but they have moved to the building along Commonwealth Road, just 100m away from the original site.  I personally have not tasted the chicken rice at Margaret’s Drive, but I have recently eaten at the new location.  Surprisingly the chicken rice was quite decent!  But (there is always a but, if not it would be my favourite chicken rice store) what I find is the juiciness of the meat is not evenly sealed; some parts of the chicken is significantly drier than others.  According to my beau the standard now is no where near what it used to be.

The 3 important components of hainanese chicken rice is the chicken, the rice and not forgetting, the sauces.  A good plate of chicken rice is definitely not a ‘healthier choice’.  For the meat to be succulent, the chicken has to be FAT.

My all-time favourite chicken rice stall is…

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Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice

We love this store because all the components are balance.

Chicken:  OMG tender, every part of it.  I don’t like to eat chicken breast, but I gladly eat the chicken breast from this store.  The meat is tender, but not oily.

Rice:  Pretty decent.  Not hard or dry, not blend, not too oily.

Sauces:  The chicken sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and saltiness.  The chili sauce is violent – spicy and fragrant.  Don’t forget to ask for black sauce and ginger sauce!

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There is a permanent queue at the stall, so be prepared to wait about 15 minutes.  We always go there for lunch, not sure if there is any chicken left for dinner!

Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
Blk 347 Jurong East Avenue 1
Yuhua Market and Hawker Center
Singapore 600347

Park Lane Wanton Noodle

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The famous Park Lane wanton mee, which is now located in Sunshine Plaza.

Honestly it does not taste fantastic. The noodle is not bouncy, the wanton has little fillings, and the charsiew is of cheap quality. But why do I still crave for it once in a (long) while?

Simply because the flavours remind me of childhood.

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Particularly the wanton, it reminds me of primary school. I used to buy wantons at 10 cents a piece from this plump canteen auntie. Her wantons have barely any fillings, but I really enjoyed eating them. My mum would always tell me not to buy them. And after which, most importantly, my mum would make home made love wantons with lots of fillings! Mushrooms, prawns, pork, carrot, spring onions etc.. Yummy yums.

So the only reason I return to this place is their wantons, plus they use black sauce for the noodle. Supposedly the ‘colourless’ sauce is cantonese style.

Park Lane Zha Yun Tun Mee House
91 Bencoolen Street,
Sunshine Plaza #01-53/85
Tel: 68359212

If you like char siew, you should try the wanton mee at Tiong Bahru Market. I am not a char siew person, but the Tiong Bahru Market stall’s char siew is freaking dope! Another wanton mee worth trying is at Lavender Food Centre; I love their noodles! Both stalls have very long queue, so be prepared to wait!

Update 7 June 2011
I realize there is Park Lane wanton mee in Biopolis. It is located in the food court in Matrix. I tried the fried pork chop noodle today. Nothing fantastic. But the noodle and sauce does taste the same as the one at Sunshine Plaza.

LEDs wonder

I attended a series of microscopy workshops this week. The imaging technology has advanced a lot over the years.

It is nice to see scientific theories put to practical use. For example the physics of total internal reflection. We learnt in secondary school that when light hits an object and the incidence angle is larger than its critical angle, total internal reflection is achieved. At the same time an evanescent wave is released. I never understood what good can the evanescent wave be used.  Now engineers figured it can be used in microscope to image cell surfaces, which is very useful to study membrane trafficking.

My trainer was explaining how LED is now used to illuminate the sample, replacing traditional filament bulb. LED switches on and off more quickly and it emits less heat than filament bulb. He then made a comment that intrigued me. He commented this LED technology was made possible thanks to car makers like Audi and Mercedes. These car makers have developed the LEDs so bright that it can be used as car headlights.

Quite unbelievable huh?  I would have expected the microscope companies to be the one who developed the technology, since they basically study light and its properties. But I guess the car markers like Audi was determined to have their signature LED headlight design on the cars which drove them to develop the technology.

Technology: Print me a Stradivarius | The Economist

How a new manufacturing technology will change the world
Feb 10th 2011 | from the print edition

THE industrial revolution of the late 18th century made possible the mass production of goods, thereby creating economies of scale which changed the economy—and society—in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time. Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which does the opposite. Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.

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Post-election

Having a writer’s block.  I will let the links that I am about to share do the talking.

A bit of background information.  Singapore just concluded her General Election held every 5 years.  The 2011 General Election was a pretty exciting one.  We witness the success of the opposition party in winning a ward, but at the same time the loss of a talented foreign minister.  This election created a milestone in Singapore history.

Many creative posts sprung up during this period.  I am sharing some of my favourite posts.

1) A video that summarised very much alll the election debate.

2) Cute caption
http://knowyourmps.blogspot.com/2011/05/yaw-shin-leong-hougang-smc.html?spref=fb

3) The returning officer rose to fame for his straight faced and steady rhythm annoucement.  He is also the chief executive director of People’s Association.  The association ride on his fame and used it to advertise their event.