Saturday, July 21, 2018

Chye Lye Curry Fish Head Restaurant at Sembawang

I got to know about this restaurant from their postings on Facebook. They have been around since 1967 serving the usual Zi Char far. They are located in a coffee shop directly opposite Sembawang Shopping Centre. There are clusters of shophouses that given the uniquely old-school charm to this northern part of Singapore. Amongst their dishes, Curry Fish Head is the most popular. It must be of a certain standard if not, it would not be featured on their signboard. We were there for a late lunch. The coffee shop was rather quiet at that time and I actually thought they were not in operation. A lady walked out to greet us when we were there. 

We decided to go with their signature Curry Fish Head ($23) with 2 plates of rice at $0.80 each. Their Curry Fish Head was served with different types of vegetables and tau pok. The curry was in orange color, rich texture but not overpowering with a hint of tanginess and a mild spiciness. The red snapper head was rather substantial, tender and relatively fresh.

My dining companion compared it to the famous Kam Long Curry Fish Head in Johor Bahru and still think they serve a better Curry Fish Head. He is still hunting for a similar style Curry Fish Head that is as good. 

1 Jalan Legundi SINGAPORE 759263
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.30 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Long House Soon Kee Boneless Braised Duck Rice . Porridge . Noodle

The stall started at the defunct Long House Food Garden at Jalan Besar Stadium in 1986 before moving to Long House Food Court along Thomson Road then to a coffee shop at Tyrwhitt Road. The 2 brothers decided to go their separate way from there. One of them started a stall at Balestier Market and the other brother started another stall in Ang Mo Kio. It is located beside the popular Roast Paradise that has another stall in Old Airport Road Food Centre.

Dry Kway Teow is my usual order and I always add a braised egg, liver with an extra portion of braised duck at $6.50. The braised egg and liver were presented on a separate plate with a few pieces of cucumber, drenched in the braising sauce. It was also served along with a bowl of herbal-ish soup.

The Kway Teow was cooked well to retain its firmness and not mushy. It tasted good when it was tossed evenly with the braised sauce and chilli. The braised duck was nicely deboned and chopped into thin slices, it was flavorful and still retained its tenderness. 

Block 531 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-2429 SINGAPORE 560531
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on alternate Wednesdays)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Punggol Noodles : the one-armed hawker legend

Mr Yee Meng Yong, 55, the owner, he lost his right hand in an industrial accident in 1984 at the age of 21. Another setback was the loss of his wife in 2008. He has been cooking with just his left hand for 22 years to raise his family. It used to be a noodle stall in Punggol Road near to St Anne's Church. It was only $1.20 for a bowl then in 1985. It moved to Kovan Food Centre then to Block 210 Hougang Street 21 before moving to its current location in October 2011. That is why the stall is known as Punggol Noodles even though they are located in Hougang. 

There are different types of Teochew-style Minced Meat Noodles from $3 to $3.50 as well as side dishes like Braised Intestine ($2), Teochew Meatball Soup ($2/$3) and Vegetable Soup ($2) on their menu. There is also Teochew Handmade Meatball paste at $12 per box for ordering, each box can be made into about 30 meatballs. 

I decided to go with Minced Pork Noodle ($3.50) and a bowl of Teochew Meatball Soup ($2). Their signature handmade meatball is as big as a ping pong using minced meat, fish and deep-fried sole fish as its main ingredients. Uncle started making it when he took over the stall from his father in 1995, it was handed down to his parents from his grandfather. He was forced to do the cooking due to circumstances. 

He asked, "Do you want pork liver? Do you want it with bean sprouts?" Uncle is cheerful and rather friendly. He went swiftly ahead to blanch the pork liver, lean meat, minced meat and the meatballs in the boiling water before dished up and placed them in 2 bowls. The assistant ladled the soup into the bowls thereafter. He quickly tossed a portion of noodles in the boiling water and started to prepare the sauce mixture in a bowl, he then balanced the strainer with his amputated right arm while stirring it using his left hand before placing the blanched noodles into the bowl and topped it with braised mushroom. It left me feeling amazed.

I was delighted that those slices of pork liver were cooked to a perfect tenderness. I noticed that the soup was lukewarm so as not to continue cooking those liver in the bowl. The soup was lightly flavored with a hint of natural sweetness. The noodles were cooked well to retain its springiness. The well-flavored meatballs were not overly starchy coupled with the desired bounciness and a notable flavor derived from the dried sole fish. It tasted unique and different from the other meatballs. 

I am definitely coming back for the braised intestine that I did not get to taste it this time and I will go for additional ingredients when ordering the Minced Pork Noodle again. 

Block 105 Hougang Avenue 1 #02-24 Hainanese Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 530105
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Mondays and Fridays)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee : not as good as expected

Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee started by Peter Lim, the founder, in a coffee shop at Jago Close. The coffee shop is along East Coast Road and near to Holy Family Church, before moving to Tanjong Pagar Food Centre. Benny, his son, started to help out before eventually took over the stall. He is manning it single-handedly now. The stall was quite popular when they were in Katong but not so now though there is still a queue during lunch. I tried it once a long time ago but I did not have much impression now. 

We were there on a Sunday. While ordering Lor Mee from Soon Heng Food Delights, I could hear the clanging sound of the wok from afar. My dining companion suggested, "Let's go check out the Fried Kway Teow." We decided to go with the larger portion of Traditional Teow Chew Fried Kway Teow at $4. There is a smaller portion at just $3. There is also Penang Style Fried Kway Teow at $4/$5 and Seafood Fried Kway Teow at $4/$5.

The Traditional Teow Chew Fried Kway Teow uses a black sweet sauce with ingredients like fishcake, bean sprouts, and vegetable. As my dining companion does not eat cockles, it was requested to be left out. It was served with a piece of lime. This is likely the first time that I ever encountered this. 

My dining companion said, "The sweetness from the black sweet sauce is quite light." He continued, "Maybe it should not be served with a lime. It must be the cause of the mild sweet taste." He said, "It might go better if it is served with the Penang Style Fried Kway Teow."

The fried kway teow was quite moist but not quite flavorful. My dining companion said, "I do not think I will order this again." 

6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #01-05 Tanjong Pagar Food Centre SINGAPORE 081006
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hong Kong Stewed Soup . Zhong Zai Fan : is there a change of ownership?

I was there on a rainy Sunday, the coffee shop was not as crowded as expected at about 1 pm. I usually ordered from this particular stall manned by a couple originated from Hong Kong. There are different types of stewed soup and steamed rice on their menu. I decided to go with Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice ($3.50), Salted Fish Steamed Pork Rice ($3.50) and Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs ($4.00).

The Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice that has always been a personal favorite that I often order. I ever told the friendly auntie that, "Your Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice is one of the best that I have ever eaten." She replied in a distinct Hong Kong accent Mandarin, "It has been steamed for many hours to have that kind of softness and flavor." It was disappointing this time, the first ever since I started eating at this stall more than a decade ago. 

The texture of the braised pork was not as soft as it used to be. There was a notable chewiness and not as flavorful. The blanched vegetable tasted bitter. It did not help even when I tried to pour soya sauce over it and tried eating it with the red cut chilli so I left it uneaten.

The Salted Fish Steamed Pork Rice was better. Those pieces of sliced meat were steamed together with shredded ginger together with the rice. The texture of the meat was tender and tasted quite flavorful. Somehow, it was not as good as I remember.

The Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs consists of a few pieces of rather tough pork ribs. 

Is there a change of ownership? I did not see the familiar auntie at the stall there.

Block 925 Yishun Central 1 #01-249 SINGAPORE 760925
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Saturdays)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Muffles - Sweet Treats & Bakes

Met up with May Chow to collect the kee chang with red bean paste that I ordered. She used to run a hawker stall at Jalan Berseh Food Centre but gave it up recently after 2 years. Prior to that, she used to work as a pastry chef with Mandarin Orchard and Resorts World Sentosa before starting the hawker stall. 

I asked here, "Why did you give up your stall?" She said, "I had to pay $600 every month for cleaning fee when I did not even use plates for those pastries that I served." She continued to say, "And, I realized that I spent about $14,000 during the past 2 years for nothing. She said, "It is just not worth it."

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fatty Bombom Sizzle at Toa Payoh North

We were there at about 5 pm but the light of the signboard of this stall was still off even though it is stated on their Facebook page that they are starting at 5 pm. There were also other customers waiting as well followed by more and more customers coming to wait. This seemed to be the most popular stall amongst the others in the hipster foodcourt. Their food must be of a certain standard to be this popular. 

At 5.20 pm, the staff was spotted walking into the stall. The chap at the counter offered to take my order when I was looking at the menu board. He said, "We will only start cooking at 5.30 pm." I decided to go with Cajun Chicken ($6.90) and Crunchy Chicken ($7.20). I was given a buzzer after paying up. We waited till 5.50 pm to receive the orders despite I was the first customer to order. The Cajun Chicken was ready first followed by the Crunchy Chicken. 

The Cajun Chicken did not taste quite like it. What exactly is Cajun? Cajun is relating to a style of cooking originating amongst the Cajuns and characterized by the use of spicy seasonings such as cayenne pepper and paprika. In this instance, I could not taste the spiciness in the seasoning. The chicken was served in a pool of brown sauce and totally covered by the same sauce, which I suspected to be the black pepper sauce. It might be more appropriate if they named it Back Pepper Chicken instead. By the way, there is also a Black Pepper Chicken on their menu. Did they mess up the order? I am quite certain that it was not Cajun Chicken. The chicken tasted quite bland without the sauce. 

The chunky fries were sprinkled with Cajun seasoning though, the spiciness though mild but quite distinctive. 

I could not understand why did they serve coleslaw on the hotplate? It is supposed to be served cold and not warm. They actually placed it on a leaf of lettuce but it did not keep the heat away. They should have it served separately since there are no other choices for side dishes.

The Crunchy Chicken did not fare any better. It was served along with mayonnaise. It was fried well to a notable crunchiness but the meat was surprisingly bland as well.

My dining companion commented that their popularity might have to do with the limited options of halal Western food which I agreed. There is actually a better Western food stall nearby but not halal-certified though.

When I met up with KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, for the first time for an interview for a writing position. He clearly told me that "Nice say nice and not nice say not nice". I have been following this principle all this while and trying to stay objective. Some might think that writing a negative review will have an indirect impact on the establishment. While writing for Makansutra, I went to review OMGrill, a stall manned by the winner of Wok Star, a local TV cooking programme. He was offered a stall in the coffee shop rent-free for the first 6 months by a particular F & B group as part of the prizes. Apparently, the stall did not make it and closed after a while. I seriously do not think my honest review has directly contributed to its closure. 

978 Toa Payoh North Grains & Hops Food Court Bistro SINGAPORE 319001
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.30 pm / 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Rong Ji : homely comfort food

This stall has been around for the longest time, it was recommended by some of their regular customers on certain Facebook groups. I was there for lunch. There were just a few tables occupied in this quiet coffee shop. I decided to order a Seafood Horfun ($4) and Sweet & Sour Pork ($8) with rice ($0.50). The wait was a short one, it was delivered to our table in about 15 minutes, the Sweet & Sour Pork came first then the plate of rice and followed by the Seafood Horfun. 

I actually enjoyed the Sweet & Sour Pork quite a bit. It was better than most that I have tasted. The sauce was slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness and a well-balanced sourish taste. The piece of deep-fried meat though not as crispy as expected to be but it was not soggy as well, it was served together with chunks of cucumber, pineapple, tomato and red onion. It went really well with the rice. 

The Seafood Horfun was just average. Though the flat rice noodles were dark in color, it did not have much wok flavor. The gravy was not starchy but rather watery and not as flavorful. It was served with ingredients like sliced fish, lean meat, and prawns. 

We enjoyed the Sweet & Sour Pork so we decided to come back for dinner. It was quite crowded during the dinner. Most of the tables in the coffee shop were occupied at that time. When ordering, I asked, "Do I have to wait long?" The lady taking my order replied, "No. Not very long." I decided to go with Prawn Paste Chicken ($8) and Curry Fish Head ($22) with 2 plates of rice. We waited for about 30 minutes before it was served. 

My dining companion compared the Prawn Paste Chicken with the one served by the Hong Kong Street Long Ji and felt that it was just not as good. Though it was quite crispy, the flavor of prawn paste was rather mild thus not as flavorful. 

The Curry Fish Head seemed to be one of their popular dishes as a few other tables also ordered that. The Fish Head was quite a small one, served in a clay pot with brinjal, ladyfinger, and dried beancurd sheets. The taste was towards Indian style curry and its level of spiciness was quite mild, it is good even for my dining companion that has a low tolerance for spicy food.

It might not be the best tasting but these homely comfort foods are keeping their customers to come back.

Block 159 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 SINGAPORE 560159

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Houson Herbal Braised Duck at Jurong East

It is difficult to miss this stall as you could see the queue from afar. It is located in one of the coffee shops in Jurong East central just a stone's throw away from Jurong East MRT station. They are popular for their Herbal Braised Duck and Kway Chap though there are also other items like Pig's Organ Soup, Pig's Trotter and even the Braised Meat with Preserved Vegetable.

I ordered Kway Chap set for 2, added Braised Duck together with 3 bowls of kway (flat rice noodle sheets) for $13.50. The set also consists of braised egg, large intestine, braised meat, tau kwa and tau pok. 

It did not taste as nice as I remember but the large intestine and braised meat were still good. The braised duck did not have much of the herbal flavor and it was quite salty. I would prefer that it was chopped into bigger pieces as its texture was quite mushy. My dining companion that did not eat the large intestine, said, "I could not quite tell the duck meat from the intestine."

Those pieces of kway were thin and smooth served in a slight herbal-ish broth, it was quite nice.

132 Jurong Gateway Road #01-271 Happy Hawker Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 600132
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on alternate Mondays)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Chong Wen Ge Cafe at Telok Ayer Street

This cafe is located in Chong Wen Ge building owned by Singapore Hokkien Huey Kuan right next to Thian Hock Keng Temple that was once a Chinese school founded by Tan Kim Seng in 1949. There is also a Peranakan Tiles Gallery next to the cafe and a Music Box Museum upstairs owned by a Japanese. The cafe is named after the school to pay tribute to its past opened in May 2016. The menu focuses on Peranakan dishes like Nonya Laksa, Mee Siam and different types of Nonya Kueh.

The cafe was still quite crowded at 2 pm. I ordered at the counter and decided to have the Nonya Laksa ($11.80) and Iced Coffee ($2.50). I was given a buzzer after paying. I also wanted some of those Nonya kueh on display and I said, "I want to order some of those." The bespectacled auntie at the counter, said, "It is self-service." I stood in front of the display counter, wondering whether should I lift or slide the glass door to access to those kueh? The helpful foreign lady behind the counter was telling me to lift it. She handed me a small plate. Next moment, I was looking for a tong which I could not find. I tried asking the same lady. She pointed to a box on top of the counter. The tong was inside that box. I picked 3 different types of Nonya Kueh and proceeded to the cashier for payment. It was $4.50 in total and $1.50 per piece. There was a glass of Iced Coffee at the counter and I asked the same bespectacled auntie, "That's my Iced Coffee?". She nodded. 

I collected the Iced Coffee and that plate of kueh, holding onto the buzzer and walked out of the cafe towards the seating area outside. The buzzer sounded in about 5 minutes. I picked it up and walked towards the cafe, left the buzzer at the end of the counter and collected my bowl of Laksa.

The Iced Coffee was a better choice on such a crazily hot day but the taste was not quite memorable. The only outstanding one amongst that plate of kueh was Seri Muka Durian, the Kuih Lapis and Kuih Pulut Init were just average. 

The nicely presented Laksa came with 3 pieces of relatively fresh large-sized prawns that were neatly butterflied and de-veined. It was served along with a hard-boiled egg and slices of fishcake together with a handful of bean sprouts and chopped laksa leaves. The subtle spiciness was balanced with thick coconut milk for a richer flavor. The addition of bean sprouts has given the dish a desired texture. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

This is an interesting cafe but there is room for improvement for the service.

168 Telok Ayar Street SINGAPORE 068619
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 5.30 pm (Daily)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Prawnaholic : the fusion Prawn Mee

Alan Choong, 24, the owner, started this stall serving Prawn Mee, his favorite hawker dish. He ventured into the Food & Beverage industry about 5 years ago, working in hotels and restaurants before deciding to start this hawker stall. There are only 5 items on the menu, the Special Prawn Noodle ($6.50), King Prawn Noodle ($8.50), King Prawn Udon ($12.50) and 2 side dishes, Prawn Balls & Salted Egg Mayo ($6.50) and Salmon Skin & Salted Egg Mayo ($6.50). There used to be Lala Prawn Noodles at $4 but it has since been removed from the menu.

The first step to ordering is to select the type of noodles and the choices are yellow mee, thick bee hoon, kway teow or a mixture of those. There is the dry and soup version but their signature is the dry one. There are choices to add $1.00 for either lala, prawn, pork or an onsen egg. I ordered through Alan and I decided to have Special Prawn Noodle. Alan asked, "Do you want to add an egg?" I nodded. The total amount was $7.50. The Special Prawn Noodle came with a small portion of noodles, 2 pieces of large prawns, a homemade prawn ball and the torched Kurobuta Pork that replaced the usual pork ribs and sliced meat.

The prawn ball did not taste too special as I have eaten a similar one at Bai Nian Yong Tau Foo. The relatively fresh prawns were not deshelled and so making it rather difficult to eat without dirtying your hands. The Kurobuta Pork was quite a pleasant surprise and I would not mind paying for extra pieces but not for the onsen egg. Though the onsen egg has given the noodles a textual difference but not quite worth paying $1.00 for it. There was some pork lard added but was rather soggy and with a slightly burnt taste and bitterness. The accompanied chilli tasted strange though, it was a bit too sweet and lacking in spiciness. The bowl of soup that served along with the noodle was quite flavorful. 

There is also a traditional Prawn Mee stall at the first level of this food centre by another young hawker serving equally good prawn mee at cheaper prices. 

Block 110 Pasir Ris Central #02-12 Pasir Ris Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 519641
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 3.00 pm / 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hong Kong Jin Tian : re-opening on 16 Jun 2018

Mrs Yap, the lady boss of Hong Kong Jin Tian sent this to my phone. I left my phone number with her when I visited their stall at Ubi in Jun 2016. I got to know her when I went to their shop at Zion Road in August 2014 to do an article for Makansutra but that shop closed down later. They used to be famous for their 鸭脚包 and hopefully that legendary dish is back on their menu too. 

Block 34 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee #01-858 SINGAPORE 160034
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm (Daily)