It's been a while, hasn't it? Since my last post at Culina, I've since been accepted into a Cambridge course as a trainee teacher under the CELTA course (google will help you), and have already started teaching elementary English to a class of at least 14 adults in each class. It's not easy, but so far it's been really fun.
I'll update this blog about my progress in CELTA if anyone is interested in knowing more about the course and what goes on in it, but for now, we should really go back to food!
One of the perks of taking this course, is that my classes are in Toa Payoh, which holds an impressive horde of food. Even before taking this course me and my family have always visited Toa Payoh for food and buying ingredients at the wet market. My father used to live here, and he never fails to reminisce about his childhood when he visits.
So it would make sense, that after my first day at CELTA my dad would bring me and my mother to Hiang Ji Roasted Meat and Noodle House.
As with most roasted meat stalls, Hiang Ji proudly displays its meats for the day (or days) for customers. Their restaurant has gotten larger over the years and now accommodates more people, even having an air-conditioned area in the small dining area - something that is a big plus for Singapore's terribly tropical climate.
Once you take your seat, the staff at Hiang Ji take your order very proactively, recommending you specials if you have never been there before, and remembering you if you have visited previously - down to your favourites and being fully capable of predicting how many servings of rice, soup or meat you will need when you order.
Don't doubt the staff - they are fully capable of estimating the amount you need if you aren't, and are always happy to help.
So, after we got our order in, food started arriving within 5 to 10 minutes, quickly filling up our round table, as the staff arrived with plates of steaming rice, trays of roasted meats slathered in special sauce, glistening roasted duck, flash fried vegetables piled mountain high sprinkled with bright red chilis and popping green chives.
Our first plate was, of course, nothing else but the platter of roasted meats - barbecued lean pork, red and dripping with its constant companion the crispy pork belly. If you have followed me this far in my food journey, you will know that I have had my fair share of roasted meat, Cantonese style - we will also review some of my favourite Hong Kong roasted meats when we visit in December.
For now, behold the goodness of Hiang Ji's roasted platter.
Hiang Ji does a really lovely job with this, their slices are generously thick, pork belly always with its signature crispy crackling and barbecue pork tender with slight bite of tendons. So lovely with rice, but my family never stops at one.
Our main platter was the roasted duck, a must have when you visit Hiang Ji. Succulent and dripping with goodness, their roasted duck is prepared daily on premises with a beautifully tasty skin rendered completely off its fat - hiding a cargo of sweet, tender, falling off the bone duck meat.
Roasted duck is one of those dishes that you can only ever hope will never die out in your lifetime, as it is a dying form of culinary skill - if you ever have the time, youtube or google the process of roasting pork or duck, or even the process of cooking the signature Singaporean Hainanese chicken rice (a plug for my next review). If you are anything like me, you will be in awe of the skills needed, and the time and love necessary to make these meats delicious and perfect.
As a side note, Hiang Ji does a lovely side of pickled spicy vegetables, always placed on the side to pair perfectly with their salty, sweet meats. A palate cleanser and good for ridding your body of unnecessary oils and toxins. They also have a special sauce that serves as a gravy for rice and meat, so you are are afraid of food that is dry (not that this is an issue here) and always need gravy in some form, make sure you ask for sauce from the staff and slather the good stuff on your rice.
You won't regret it. Trust me.
It's not always about the meat with my family - we make it a point to order our vegetables in any form we can. A favourite, especially for my dad, is some stir fried bean sprouts, simply with some soy sauce or sesame oil in a chef's favourite old wok, topped with the brightest red and green garnishings, and Hiang Ji's specialty - topped with a generous sprinkle of deep fried pork lard.
That's right, pork lard. Just when you were fooled into thinking we are remotely healthy at all - pork fat cubed and diced into little nibbles, fried in it's own fat until it becomes naught more than a morsel of crispy, tasty goodness used as a garnishing and to add flavour to many Asian dishes.
As with most families, we also emphasise on having some nutritious soup when possible, and the main reason we love coming to Hiang Ji is their soup - their signature Salted mustard leaves with duck soup. Me and my younger sister were brought up on this soup, we absolutely love it to pieces and can devour bowls of it with rice for any meal at any time.
A broth of sour, salted mustard leaves, pickled and cooked in broth till soft and perfectly tender - with sour plums, tomatoes and pieces of duck meat, this soup is not only good for your soul but also your blood circulation. I never fail to be amazed at how delicious this soup is, and will never miss an opportunity to have it.
If you ever visit Hiang Ji you must, must try this soup - refills are free!
Pretty short review today, I must be off, teaching requires a lot of planning in a relatively short amount of time. As I said, I will still be updating, but this month is pretty tight for me in terms of doing anything other than study and teaching practice, so I will try my very best to keep you guys posted.
Also, here's a photo of my dessert post-dinner, some fresh baked loaves with fresh kaya (coconut jam) and butter. It is a perfectly acceptable dessert, don't be silly.
Hiang Ji can be located at:
190 Lorong 6