February 15, 2024

Singapore in Taipei

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Small Uncle is back in Taiwan for another teaching stint, and wanted to get together before I went back to Hong Kong. Once again I was tasked with picking a restaurant on short notice, once again during the lunar new year holidays. Taking into account mom's dietary restrictions, and remembering that she enjoyed our dinner at JL Studio, I decided to take the family out to Chope Chope Eatery and check out the place.

I didn't read the menu descriptions too carefully, but I figured that Jimmy would not be serving all the dishes in their traditional form. For a young and ambitious chef intent on making a mark - and he has certainly done that - he was, naturally, going to introduce a few twists. I, of course, don't mind new takes on classic dishes at all... as long as they are still tasty and faithful to the flavors.

Gado-gado - as the sweet peanut sauce came on the side, I made sure mom got a good selection of the veggies without the sauce. The tempeh was pretty decent, and everyone liked the krupuk udang.

Stir-fried kangkong - BUT OF COURSE. Just like in most restaurants in Singapore, the kangkong belacan was one of the first dishes to arrive. Flavor-wise this was probably the dish that's most faithful to the original.

Hainanese chicken rice - there wasn't enough chicken to go around and I'm not excited about Hainanese chicken rice these days, so I didn't get a piece. After Foursheets told mom that the chicken "didn't have much flavor" and that she couldn't taste any MSG, mom decided to have a piece of the chicken. Everyone agreed, though, that the chicken oil rice was too mushy - tasty as it was.

Ngoh hiang - this was pretty good, too, and very much like the traditional form. Very nice with bits of crunchy water chestnuts.

Otak-otak - this was a totally new take and threw mom off completely. Instead of being wrapped in banana leaf and grilled, the fragrant fish paste was placed between two slices of deep-fried toast. This very much reminded me of the classic shrimp toast (蝦多士) in Cantonese cuisine. Gotta say I enjoyed this a lot.

Seafood laksa rice vermicelli - this was... meh. I was surprised by the amount of seafood here, with 4 or 5 rather large prawns in addition to calamari rings, mussels, and clams - although the clams were pretty skinny inside. Lots of tau pok, which was great. But the broth was much too light for those of us who love Singaporean laksa, and could have used easily double the amount of coconut milk.

Beef rendang - I like that beef cheek is used, as it's very tender and has plenty of collagen. The chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves is something I love about another rendang I enjoy very much, and I'm happy to see it here. The sauce was lighter and more liquid than what I'm normally used to, but I was really taken aback by the presence of chick peas, though... as I'm not sure why Jimmy chose to put them in the dish. There was a decent amount of heat thanks to the cut chilis, so this was pretty nice.

Roti pratha - the other problem I had, though, was that the restaurant does not serve plain, steamed rice. The only rice option is the chicken oil rice, which does not work with rendang at all. So we had little choice but to order some roti, which were pretty decent.

Seafood char kway teow - this was always gonna be a dish that came heavy-handed, so I wasn't the least bit surprised at what I was tasting. I did think they could have lighted it a little, but overall this was fine. Not having tasted char kway teow (炒粿條) in some years, mom was surprised at the presence of Chinese sausage. The sliced beef, of course, was treated with baking soda to tenderize them.

Kayamisu - I had the pleasure of tasting a giant version of this a few months ago, so I was excited to see this here. Interesting bitterness from matcha powder working with the pandan flavors, along with bits of grass jelly (仙草) and crunchy bits of malt balls.

Ice Chope Chope milk tea - this was noticeably more exotic compared to your run-of-the-mill teh tarik, thanks to the amount of spices added.

StrangeLove double ginger beer - made with three different types of ginger: Australian, Fijian, and Taiwanese old ginger. Definitely plenty of ginger flavors, and interesting fragrance.

Turns out mom had been expecting more traditional takes for the dishes, so I ended up being happier about the meal, but I was still glad to have had the opportunity to check this place out. Happy to have gotten together with Small Uncle after not seeing him for a year.

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