Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Legend of Twelve dishes and the Teochew Gourmands

Note: Super backdated post. We ate this last year, somewhere in July?

Damn. It's been more than half a year, and I have been procrastinating because I forgot to take a photo of the shopfront and wanted to post only after I have done so. Which was a pity, because for once, I did not have anything bad to say. Since the food was quite memorable, I should think Fragrant Garden should still be around. haha. Besides since when did I become so selfless as to make sure you guys know where to locate it*winks*?

We wanted to do something big for mother's birthday last year. So we gathered all our aunties to celebrate their beloved sister's big occasion at a Teochew restaurant. Hungrygowhere provided something useful for a change, the Fragrant Garden in Upper Serangoon.

When the boss, who is a very chatty and friendly pehpeh, found out we were celebrating my mother's birthday (kudos to mother and aunties who tried to ingratiate with him in Teochew, notti notti) , he brought out steamed baby longevity buns 寿桃. "For free", he declared(and this was before I took out my camera and vicious pen) "my gift to the birthday girl".

Wasn't he sweet? Six months later, I still remember.

Those 寿桃 were made with 莲蓉 (Lotus seed paste, Google Translator tells me when my vocab fails me) and were just nice, not cloyingly sweet. Tiny, pink and cute, like young American teenage nipples, I was telling my deviant brother. Haha.

To reward the uncle for his kindness as well as properly commemorate our very sacrificing mother (not many women can create reprobates as bad as us, it took much effort, trust me), we ordered an astonishing eleven dishes. Fortunately there were 9 of us, amongst them four pure Teochew tummies and one particularly demanding palate, to help polish them off,

We ordered eh, steamed prawns *roll eyes*, braised duck *roll eyes again*, oyster omelette, 冷盘 (literally cold dish), sweet and sour pork, suchai, noodles, yam basket *yeah!*, sliced fish fried with baby bokchoy, braised chicken with chestnuts, and yam paste. Let me see, the prawns were overcooked, I was told. The duck was nice, I was told. The oyster omelette was unusual, heaped with local chilli paste, so I doubt that is a pure Teochew dish. I found the 冷盘 very unusual, yes, the usual suspects were there, but the preparation for the octopus was very unique in that it was sour. The jellyfish was also different yet nice, but six months later, I cannot remember why? Sorry. Haha.

The suchai, vegetables and noodles were ok, nothing to write home to mother about (esp since she was sitting there already). I liked the yam basket, but I always do. The sweet and sour pork was one of the highlights of the meal. The braised chicken with chestnuts was quite good, the sauce was just nice, not too salty nor thick. The nuts were infused with the delicious flavour as well. However the Pièce de résistance of the entire meal has to be the Yam Paste. Served with the gingko nuts, pumpkin and water chestnuts (I think???) and doused liberally with sweet syrup, we were told by the pehpeh that this was the real traditional Teochew preparation. Not the usual coconut syrup we serve, he expounded, cheap stuff which we have to use to keep catering costs down.

We nodded solemnly. The uncle was really quite friendly, practically dancing with excitement at our table almost the entire time (it was a lazy Saturday afternoon). He did not charge us GST or service charge and even gave us a discount. Still it was S$210 something after discount.

Ok, not all the dishes available at the Fragrant Garden were pure Teochew, but everyone enjoyed themselves. Which at the end of the day, is the most important, isn't it? It was worth not going to Shangri la to celebrate.

Updated! Fragrant Garden has moved to the dodgy-looking shopping mall across the road (with the giant House of Seafood red sign), Upper Serangoon Shopping Center! It's on the first floor. We had it for my mom's birthday this year again! Note: if you like yam paste like we do, get the S$4 per bowl instead of the S$20 medium bowl if you have 6 persons. S$4 bowl is full to the brim! I had instant regret when I saw how miserable my portion was after sharing out the S$20 bowl. Now I understood why the uncle said we should get the individual portions instead...

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