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)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Vicky's vs Lana Cakes : who serves the best Chocolate Fudge Cake?

What constitutes a good chocolate fudge cake? Basically, it should be rich and satisfying. It also has to be moist and not too fluffy with a rather dense and thick frosting that has a good chocolate flavor. The cake-to-frosting ration has to be right as well in distinct layers. 

A blind taste test was conducted by The Sunday Times to find the best chocolate fudge cake in Singapore in 2016. Lana Cakes was listed as the number 1 and Vicky's as number 10. There were a total of 10 cakes selected from different bakeries. I posted in a group on Facebook asking for a recommendation of a Chocolate Cake and Vicky's was amongst those that are recommended. Some even commented that it is better than Lana Cakes. 

833 Bukit Timah Road Royalville SINGAPORE 279887
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Sundays

It was started by Ms Vicky Tan, 73 in 1982 at Henry Park Apartment in Holland Grove Road before moving to Royalville along Bukit Timah Road in 2012. Vicky is the niece of Violet Kwan, the owner of the famous Lana Cakes at Greenwood Avenue. Vicky used to work for her auntie before setting up her bakery. It is so much easier to order a cake from her, you could do so by inputting it into their website or simply just call them 3 days ahead. You could even try your luck by walking in to get it.

I bought the smallest Chocolate Fudge Cake at 800 grams for $40 for a friend on his birthday and we agreed that it is, in fact, better than those from Lana Cakes. The chocolate used in the fudge and base sponge was of good quality that came with a well-balanced sweetness and did not taste too oily. The sponge was moist, tender and rather light.

36 Greenwood Avenue SINGAPORE 289239
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm (Tue to Fri) / 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (Sat)

Mrs Violet Kwan, the owner, is in her late 80s and she is looking for a successor after being in the business for more than 50 years. She started it in 1964 from her home in Serangoon Garden before moving to Hillcrest and opened her shop at Greenwood Avenue in 1975. She is looking to sell the business including the recipe and the shop. Her cakes have been a part of the growing up memories of most Singaporean grown up eating her cakes. It got popular by the spread of mouth and slowly becoming the old-fashioned comfort food for generations of Singaporeans. Till date, it still brought back forth fond memories of enjoying the cakes while growing up for most Singaporean. 

It is still difficult to get a cake from Lana Cakes. You cannot just walk in and buy one right there. You have to call at least a week ahead. If you call too early, you would get told off as it is not possible to order so far in advance. It is also difficult to call through as there is a pretty high chance that the call is left unanswering. And, they do not have a website. 

The Chocolate Fudge Cake used to be better. It was springy and light, rich, not too dense and not overly sweet with a strong chocolate flavor then. The standard has since dropped. It did not taste as good when I ordered an 800 grams Chocolate Fudge Cake at $44 for a birthday last year. It was not as moist and a not too strong chocolate flavor. Maybe it is not so much about the actual taste of the cake but more on the familiar taste that creates a sense of nostalgic.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jin Song : Wanton Mee

This stall has been in this food centre for quite a while, serving Wanton Char Siew Mee, Dumpling Mee, Mushroom Mee, Mushroom & Chicken Feet Mee and Ipoh Hor Fun. They are directly competing with Ang Mo Kio 453 Wanton Mee at the same row, just a stall away. There are usually queues at both stalls but the queue at this stall is always moving faster thus it is usually shorter.

I was there on a Sunday, the queue at Ang Mo Kio 453 Wanton Mee was really long at about 1 pm. I decided to go with same options at this stall as an alternative. I have eaten once at this stall quite a long while ago and the taste was not too memorable at that time. The Wanton Mee is priced at $3, the same price as their competitor next door and their Wanton Soup is $3.50, different by 0.50 cents. I added 2 pieces of chicken feet for $1.00, the same price.

My dining companion said, "I prefer this wanton a bit more. It is much bigger in size." He then said, "I think the sauce tasted a bit like those for chilli crab but even so I still prefer the other Wanton Mee a bit more." The wanton is slightly bigger and the well-seasoned filling has a softer texture with a notable dried sole fish taste.

I actually prefer the other Wanton Mee too. Their chilli is spicer and more aromatic. Their noodles are springier and firmer. Their braised chicken feet is more flavorful as well. 

Block 162 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-30 Mayflower Food Centre SINGAPORE 560162
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 3.00 pm

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sembawang Hills Food Centre : What to eat?

Sembawang Hills Food Centre is located along Upper Thomson Road and within close proximity to Ang Mo Kio. The nearest MRT station is Yio Chu Kang though there is no direct bus from there. The easiest way to get to this food centre is to go to Ang Mo Kio MRT station and take bus 269 and change to bus 855 or 163 along Yio Chu Kang Road. 

This food centre is an ideal choice if you are looking for a quiet place to have lunch. It is not crowded during lunch as it is not near to any office buildings and factories. You hardly see a queue in this food centre during weekdays but it is usually busier on the weekends. This food centre is just a stone's throw from where I stay and here are some of the stalls that I have been patronizing regularly. 

Operating Hours: 8.30 am to 12.30 pm (Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays)

This is one of the popular stalls that usually sold out quite early. The options available are Braised Duck Rice at $3.50, Braised Duck Rice set at $4.50 or the Duck Porridge at $2.80. The Char Siew Roasted Pork Rice on their signboard is not available. I usually go for the Braised Duck Rice set with a braised egg for 0.60 cents and duck liver for 0.70 cents. You could choose to go with porridge if you do not want to have it with rice. 

The braising sauce was lighter and not as salty with a notable cinnamon and star anise flavor. The duck meat was flavorful with the desired tenderness. The chilli was good, its mild spiciness has brought forth the flavor. They usually sold out by 12.30 pm or earlier, this is a cheap and good choice if you happen to be in this food centre for an early lunch. 

Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 11.30 am (Tue to Fri) / 7.00 am to 6.00 pm (Sat & Sun)

This is another stall that usually closed quite early during weekdays but not so on the weekends. It has been around for 35 years selling just fried carrot cake. The current stall owner took over the stall from his father that started it from a pushcart. Unlike most of the other stalls, they are still handmade the carrot cake though no longer using the wood fire but gas to steam them. There are 3 sizes available at $3.00, $3.50 and $4.00. It was served on a disposable plate with a plastic fork. 

The carrot cake was smashed into smaller pieces then fried with egg. The texture of the carrot cake was delightfully soft and not greasy, with a well-balanced level of sweetness and saltiness and a light eggy flavor. 

Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm (Daily)

The stall is run by a friendly auntie single-handedly, this is usually one of the stalls that often has a short queue particularly during the weekends. There are only 4 items on their menu, Pig's Organ Soup ($4.50), Pig's Stomach Soup ($4.50), Pig's Trotter ($5.50/$7.00) and Vegetable. Rice is available at 0.50 cents per serving, there are the usual white rice and the soy sauce rice. 

The pig's trotter was braised to a perfect softness, the braising sauce was slightly sweet with a right balance of saltiness and not too thick in texture. It tasted homey and comforting.

The Pig's Organ Soup is a popular choice amongst its regular customers. It consists of meatballs, sliced meat, tofu, pig's stomach and liver with salted vegetable and coriander. The soup was not as peppery but rather light and flavorful. This is one of the better Pig's Organ Soup that I have tasted. 

Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 1.00 pm

This stall is manned by an elderly couple and Prawn Mee is the only item on their menu. There is an option for dry or soup at $3 or $4 and also to choose whether to have it with canned razor clams for $4 or $5. You could choose the types of noodles to go with it. It is usually served with ingredients like sliced meat and prawns. I usually requested to have an extra amount of chilli added but its level of spiciness is still quite mild. The soup that is served along has a nice prawny sweet taste. 

Please go early as they usually sold out before 12.30 pm and their off-day is indefinite.

Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 2.00 pm (Daily)

The elderly stall owner used to work at the Michelin-starred Tai Hwa Pork Noodle at Crawford Lane. He started this stall together with his wife in 2015. There are 3 different sizes, the $4.00, $5.00 and $6.00. The smallest portion is usually enough if you are not too hungry. It is served with the ingredient like minced meat, sliced lean meat, pork liver, meatball, dumpling together with the dried sole fish. The noodles were cooked just right to the desired springiness with a hint of the vinegar taste, not as overwhelmed as compared to the one served by the Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. There is a certain similarity in taste and this is a good alternative.

Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 7.00 pm (Daily)

This is the only Muslim-owned stall in this food centre, serving Nasi Padang, Mee Rebus, Mee Siam and Lotong. Their Mee Siam has been voted as one of the top 10 in Singapore. They do not just serve Mee Siam but also Mee Rebus, Nasi Lemak, and Nasi Padang.

I have tried the Mee Rebus and Mee Siam, both are reasonably priced at $2.50 and I actually prefer Mee Siam a bit more. The Mee Siam has a well-balanced sourish and sweetness, a little different than the usual Malay style Mee Siam. The Mee Rebus is another popular choice, it is a little too starchy to my liking though. You could also add Fried Chicken Wing or Begedil at an extra cost. 

Operating Hours: 1.30 pm to 8.00 pm (Closed on Thursdays)

This stall is manned by an elderly couple. Most of the items are handmade and one of the interesting items is the prawn fritter, it is slightly thicker in size as there is a piece of hard-boiled egg in it. There are also the regular items like Ngor Hiang, Prawn Roll, Prawn Cracker that are quite tasty and go well with the accompanying dipping sauce. 

Their fried bee hoon is a must-order, it is mildly seasoned with light soya sauce and with bean sprouts that added a textural contrast. 

Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 12.00 pm (Closed on Fridays)

This is another stall that is sold out rather early. Kway Chap is the only item on their menu, nothing else. There are 2 sizes for selection, the $3.50 and the $4.00. It is served with the standard ingredients like the braised skin, braised meat, small intestine, big intestine, fish cake, tau pok and braised egg together with a bowl of flat rice sheets that is known as "kway". The flavor though light but quite comforting and most of the items were nicely braised. 

The bowl of flat rice sheets was nice, it was quite thin, smooth and cooked to the right texture in served in the braising sauce then topped with the dried shallots. 

GRILL & PASTA (#01-34)
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 2.00 pm / 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

This stall has been in this food centre for the longest time and is likely to be the first stall serving pasta dishes in the hawker centre. There are a total of 15 pasta dishes on their menu and amongst those, one of the most popular choices is Grilled Chicken ($6.50). It consists of a piece of boneless chicken leg served with penne pasta and vegetable. You could also order other pasta dishes like the comforting Marinara ($7.20) and added a piece of grilled chicken at an extra cost. There were dried chill flakes and dried parsley at the counter for self-service. Parmesan Cheese is available at 0.80 cents per serving. 

Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 7.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Though not as popular as the 328 Katong Laksa, this is a better and cheaper alternative. There are 3 sizes for the laksa, the smallest portion at $4 followed by $5 and the largest portion is $6.00. The coconut milk infused gravy is not too rich not too spicy but rather tasty. It is served a portion of thick bee hoon together with slices of fishcake, prawns and a handful of cockles then garnished with chopped laksa leaves and sambal chilli. This stall does not just serves the Katong Laksa but also Fish Soup and Seafood Soup. 

Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Fridays)

This is another stall that has been in this food centre for a long time, manned by a friendly couple and serving only Popiah. It used to be cheaper but it is $1.50 for each piece and $2.00 with added ingredients as of now. The ingredients used were really fresh. The braised turnip was lightly flavored and served along with a handful of crunchy beansprouts, thin slices of chinese sausage, eggs, grounded peanuts and some crunchy bits, firmly wrapped together. 

DOE (#01-22)
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 3.00 pm (Thursday to Sunday)

This stall is the best-kept secret of this food centre, it is solely manned by a friendly lady single-handedly. It served one of the nicest fruit cakes that I have ever eaten. It is much better than most of the other choices out there. Their other signature item is Cempedak Cake, this is likely to be the only place for such a cake and it is only available on the seasonal basis. Some of the other choices are Coffee Walnut Cake, Butter Cake, Chocolate Cake, Marble Cake, Banana Walnut Cake, Green Tea Chiffon, Black Sesame Chiffon, Cream Cheese Chiffon and more. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Kenb's Fish & Chips : room for improvement

This hawker stall was first spotted when they were at their previous location in Sin Ming Drive at a coffee shop next to the bus stop. There was a prominent banner about them hung just outside the coffee shop. They then closed it down. I managed to track them down again when I came across their post on the Facebook. They have since moved to a coffee shop at Lorong Lew Lian close to Serangoon MRT station and a stone's throw away from NEX. 

I visited on a rainy evening. The coffee shop was rather quiet during dinner. My dining companion walked past and did not manage to locate the stall as it is located right at the corner, slightly hidden by a pillar. There was a friendly lady at the counter that took our orders. We decided to go with Signature & Bread Crumb Fish Mix at $6.80 and Junior Platter of Calamari, Oyster and Dory fish at $7.80. I was given a pager after paying up and it buzzed after waiting for 10 minutes. 

We collected the Junior Platter first. Those Fried Calamari were over-fried, it was hard with a rather chewy texture. My dining companion suspected that it might be the frozen ones. The Fried Oyster was as disappointing. There were 2 pieces, the first one was coated with a layer of thick batter that apparently was over-fried. It was greasy and the batter was hard. The second piece was a little better as I could at least taste the oyster in it. 

Those pieces of Fried Dory did not manage to stay crispy for too long as it turned soggy pretty quick. I did not manage to finish the Coleslaw as those shredded cabbages were rather soggy and not crunchy. My dining companion felt that such standard is still acceptable for the price charged and he thought it is value for money. 

The Signature & Bread Crumb Fish Mix did not fare any better. I tasted the piece that coated with breadcrumb and did not really like it as much as compared to their signature fried fillet. Maybe they did not change the oil often enough as it left quite a bad aftertaste in the mouth. 

I do not understand how could such a stall manages to survive this while when serving food at this standard? How did they manage to score 11 of 5-star reviews out of the 12 reviews left on their Facebook? It just did not quite tally as given such a standard. 

One of the nicer Fish & Chips eaten was from Seasalt - the seafood place and the sad news is they are closing on 31 May 2018. They are still looking for a good and comfortable location. Though the quality is important, it has to be cost-effective at the same time and the profit margin is usually quite thin.

Block 2 Lorong Lew Lian #01-56 SINGAPORE 531002
Operating Hours: 4.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Seng Huat Duck Rice : cheap & good

This is one of the stalls at Sembawang Hills Food Centre that I have been wanting to try but usually sold out when I was there for lunch. I made an effort to come early today and there were another 2 customers right in front of me when I was there at 11.00 am. I decided to go with the set meal for $4.50 and added a braised egg for 0.60 cents and duck liver for 0.70 cents.

I was given a nicely chopped up duck leg that well presented on a plate accompanied by slices of cucumber. The braising sauce was lighter and not as salty with a notable cinnamon and star anise flavor. The duck meat was flavorful with the desired tenderness. It was served with white rice lightly drizzled with braised sauce. The chilli was good, its mild spiciness has brought forth the flavor.

I did not actually like the soup that much. It had a light herbal-ish taste with its flavor further enhanced by the addition of coriander and though there was a garlic in it, it did not taste too garlicky.

590 Upper Thomson Road #01-07 Sembawang Hills Food Centre SINGAPORE
Operating Hours: 8.30 am to 12.30 pm (Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays)

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Humble Burger : Sio Bak Burger

I was there at about 12.30 pm for lunch, the Stack Burger ($7.00) and Portobello Burger ($4.00) were not available. I was the only customer at that time. The remaining options are Beef Burger ($5.00), Double Beef Burger ($7.50), Sio Bak Burger ($5.50), Chicken Rice Burger ($5.50) and Fish Burger ($4.00).

I decided to go with the Sio Bak Burger ($5.50) and I was asked whether to go along with twister fries which I agreed. I went with the smaller portion at $1.50, there is a larger portion at $3.00. I was asked to come back in 5 minutes to collect it after paying up.

It consists of 4 pieces of thickly sliced sio bak with mustard and miso dressings as well as lettuce and sandwiched between the toasted buns. I guess I must have waited for too long as those slices of sio bak were no longer crispy. It was slightly tough and a bit too chewy, it did not have the saltiness that a good sio bak would be expected to have. My dining companion commented that it did not have much flavor. 

This somewhat reminded me a similar burger served by Hambaobao at Beauty World Food Centre, which is tastier in comparison. 

I must just come back for their Chicken Rice Burger someday.

110 Pasir Ris Central #02-22 Pasir Ris Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 519641
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)