Dear Food Diary:
StalkerBoy (a born and raised Singaporean) have described mouth watering meals from his visits back home, but a Singaporean restaurants in NYC? We’ve been out of luck. Because Singapore is such a melting pot of Asian flavors and influences, it’s hard to define what is truly 100% Singaporean. The closest we’ve come to are labeled Malaysian, places like Nyonya and Penang… Until Masak showed up a couple months ago.
Masak which means to cook, is a “Singapore influenced” small joint in the East Village. Open kitchen, friendly staff and a full bar.
Chef/Owner Larry Reutens is a Singapore native who brings his own interpretation of Singaporean eats with a local and seasonal twist. This place has been on my list ever since their opening, so imagine my delight when Tiger Beer (a Singaporean favorite) invited me to their “Tiger Beer & Curry” promotion. I chose Masak with their Fish Head Curry pairing and brought StalkerBoy along.
TIGER BEER & FISH HEAD CURRY PAIRING
I don’t usually drink beer, so this pairing of Tiger beer and curry was new to me. One sip and I knew this was the great union, one I’ll unite again and again. Tiger beer is light, bright and refreshing, perfectly balancing the thick creamy curry base and that mild hint of spicyness. The tongue is left with a bit of bitterness that turns sweet after a couple bites.
The curry base, according to StalkerBoy is a bit thicker and creamier than the usual fish head curry in Singapore. Coconut milk and bright lemongrass gives the dish layers of flavor. The eggplant and okra soaked everything up like sponges. Traces of sweet and sour notes in the curry coat the tender fish head. If you never had fish head, I highly recommend it. The meat around the cheeks (my favorite) are some of the most melt in your mouth pieces you’ll ever have. The portions was quite big and great for sharing.
If you’re feeling adventurous, go for the eyeballs! It might look a bit gross to some, but growing up in an Asian home, this is child’s play, literally. My mom made me believe that whatever I ate would “help” my body, in this case fish eyeballs would help with better vision and for some reason make me “smarter”. Regardless, eating fish eyeballs is a pretty fun textural affair. It’s gelatinous, slimy, slippery and well, tasty in a weird way. I don’t go out of my way, but if it’s there, why waste! Plus, its sort of interesting when you see the after.
Since the Tiger Beer was only paired with the Fish Head Curry as part of the promo, we decided to order some dishes ourselves.
Chili Crab Dip came with a side of fried mantou (chinese buns). It wasn’t as spicy as we expected. The mantou is crispy on the outside, sweet and soft on the inside. Dipping into the crab, you get a bit of tomato and slight sweet and sour flavors. I wish there was more crab though, or a bit thicker. This seems to be a more easy to eat version of the dish than the whole crab version StalkerBoy talked about. I would love to get my hands dirty with whole crabs though, doesn’t that sound more exciting?
Quih Pie Tee was totally new and unique to me. Little cups of super thin though (almost like a potato chip) stuffed with different fillings. The shrimp, jicama, egg is traditionally sold in Singapore, I tried the foie gras, seckel pear which was an amazing little bite and surprise. Luscious melt in your mouth foie gras with juicy, tender pear. Savory, creamy and sweet with a bit of crunch from the shell. At $3.50, it might seem a bit hefty but well worth it. I would go back and try them all.
Quih Pie Tee: the crunchy pastry cups explained
Kangkong Belacan is one of my favorite vegetable dishes. The convolous or chinese “water spinach” has really good flavors of dried shrimp paste and fish sauce. It’s a bit strong if you’re not into fishy and all things salty and spicy, but I love it. Plus the garlic always helps.
They only served jasmine rice (nice and fluffy), though I wanted to ask for “coconut rice” but was afraid they would kick me out and send me to a “Malaysian” restaurant instead LOL.
Teh Tarik has a silky, smooth yet firm keemun tea creme on the bottom, layered with ginger milk froth. This was like condensing a relaxing afternoon in a cup. Sweet pear pearls on top, not only pretty but also a fun textural addition. Sunny meyer lemon strips along the way that made me smile, spoonful after spoonful. So dreamy and fragrant. Not too sweet, just the way I like it.
Tang Yuen Dumplings was on the house. Roasted peanut glutenous rice balls stand firmly along side a sweet chocolate ginger ice cream. The cocoa nib crumbles add a nice crunch contrast to the soft rice balls and offsets the sweetness of the overall dish with a dash of bitterness. A bit fusion, in an interesting way.
Overall I enjoyed our meal, specially the Tiger beer with curry pairing (my new favorite combo). And though prices are a bit higher than chinatown Malaysian restaurants, the food is different enough and worth a try. Specially the Quih Pie Tee.
P.S. Chubby’s Raiting:
432 East 13th St