Friday, December 14, 2018

Che' Rose Nasi Padang : Chicken Rendang

I have walked past this stall many times but never really thought of trying. The "probably the best Rendang in Singapore" on their signboard has managed to catch my attention though. This stall used to be at Toa Payoh Lorong 2 before moving to this coffee and it has been here for a few years. Che' Rose, the founder, has been selling Nasi Padang since 1968, using the recipes that handed down from her grandparents. Her son and his wife are planning to take over the stall. 

We were there for lunch on a Sunday and most of their dishes have already finished. I asked, "Chicken Rendang is the popular dish here?" The lady smiled and nodded. She wanted to give me a chicken drumstick but I asked for a bigger piece so she suggested that I should take the breast part. There were not many choices left so I went with a Sambal Egg and Ikan Belis with peanuts. She added a bit of achar, too. I paid $6.00 for it.

The Chicken Rendang is the dry version, the rendang sauce is only added to the fried chicken when is about to be served. My dining companion said, "It is not bad but I do not think this is the best Rendang in Singapore." It was slightly tough as it is usually so from the breast part. The sauce somewhat reminded me of curry sauce that has a mild spiciness. I have not tasted another Chicken Rendang to actually compare but this particular one was not quite memorable. The Sambal Egg and the Ikan Belis with peanuts were just normal. I might just come early someday to try the other dishes that were not available on that day. 

Block 128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-811 SINGAPORE 310128
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Fridays)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lai Heng Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle at Toa Payoh

They have recently moved from Block 51 Toa Payoh Lorong 6 to the current location. I was there slightly after 1 pm on a weekday for lunch. I was told that their mee pok and mee kia have already sold out and left with just mee tai mak, bee hoon and yellow noodles. Almost all of the tables at that coffee shop were taken up at that time. I decided to go with the $5 portion of yellow noodles. There is also the $4 and $6 portion available. I was given a number tag after making the payment. I waited for more than 35 minutes before seeing my number displayed on the LED panel.

Each bowl is served with pieces of lean meat, liver, minced meat and a handful of braised mushroom. The presentation reminded me of Joo Heng Mushroom Minced Pork Mee at AMK 628 Food Centre that I used to queue for 30 minutes or so for 3 to 4 times per week before that stall closed down quite suddenly. A friend mentioned that the Uncle retired due to injuries to his hands. I have tried some of those famous Bak Chor Mee including the Michelin starred Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Seng Kee Minced Meat Noodle but I have yet to find another one that is as good. 

After tossing it, the pool of watery sauce consisting the chilli and vinegar beneath the pile of yellow noodles was still there. Apparently, the sauce was too thin to be able to coat the noodles well. My dining companion took a mouthful and pushed it away right after. He said, "No. I do not like it. The yellow noodles do not go well with the sauce and it was also a little too spicy for me." I did not request for extra chilli to be added when ordering. The ingredients were relatively fresh, particularly the nicely cooked liver and the braised mushroom.

That bowl of soup was from the pot that they used to blanch the minced meat, lean meat and liver. 

The average tasting of this Bak Chor Mee somehow did not quite justify the long waiting time. Amongst the many reasons behind the long queue of such a stall, it might not be just the food or even the service, it might also be the sentimental attachment. Another possible reason is this could be the best alternative for Bak Chor Mee in this area. There were some suggestions found online, someone recommended that should try the Kway Teow Soup instead and other suggested ordering mee tai mak with an extra amount of chilli. I might just try it again if the waiting time is much shorter as I liked the braised mushroom.

Block 73 Toa Payoh Lorong 4 #01-611 SINGAPORE 310073
Operating Hours: 8.00 to 4.00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Chef Kang's Noodle House : the "atas" wanton mee

Chef Ang Song Kang, better known as Chef Kang, the owner of 1-Michelin-starred Chef Kang at Mackenzie Road has opened Chef Kang's Noodle House, a hawker stall in Toa Payoh in September. The stall is located in the canteen of Jackson Square selling Wanton Mee. He is working along with Winson Moo, 28 and Frankie Moo, 24, both of them are brothers, from Ipoh, a city in northwestern Malaysia and has been working in Chef Kang for a while. The menu is simple and there are only 3 items on it, Noodle with Char Siew & Wanton ($5), Noodle with Shredded Abalone, Char Siew & Wanton ($10) and Char Siew ($10). There is only the dry and no soup version.

We were there at about 12.30 pm and there were just another 3 customers in front. We ordered 2 portions of the Noodle with Char Siew and Wanton for $5 each. The same dish is priced at $18 in his 1-Michelin starred restaurant. Chef Ang was there but it was cooked by Winson then handed over to the chef to top it with slices of char siew and some green before serving. A bowl of soup with 2 pieces of shrimp wantons is served along.

The jook-sing mian, also known as bamboo pole noodles are specially imported from Hong Kong. It is made using the traditional method of riding a bamboo log to press the eggs, flour and other ingredients together. It is not commonly found even in Hong Kong as there is only a handful still making their noodles in this traditional manner. The noodles are the best part of the dish, it was cooked al dente, contributing to its springiness and elasticity before tossing in the soy-based sauce. 

We did not like the char siew. My dining companion said, "It tasted a bit dry and slightly tough as it was quite lean but the fatter part was nice, though still not as nice as those from Roast Paradise." Though nicely-charred, somehow it was not as flavorful with not a bit of smokiness detected though they roasted it using a charcoal oven.

The flavor is quite monotonous and also a little overpowering. My dining companion that does not like chilli actually added a bit of it into his noodles. He said, "It tasted better with chilli. With just soy sauce, the taste was rather flat. Unlike some of the others that added sesame oil to enhance the flavor."

The 2 wantons were of the average-sized, it consists of the pork filling together with prawn, some black fungus and bits of water chestnut. The filling was not well-seasoned thus it tasted a little bland. The milky soup is pork-based and tasted a bit like the tonkatsu soup for ramen. 

When ordering, my dining companion actually requested for an extra amount of those pieces of crispy lard. He said, "They only gave me this much. It did not taste as fragrant and crispy as I liked it to be anyway."

Though not the best Wanton Mee that I have eaten, I would not mind eating it again if there is no queue. I am just glad that I did not queue 2 hours just to eat this.

11 Toa Payoh Lorong 3 Block A Jackson Square SINGAPORE 319579
Operating Hours: 8.30 am to 4.00 pm (Mon to Fri) / 10.00 am to 2.00 pm (Sat & Sun)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Chop Chop Western Grill & Pasta : Takoyaki Chicken Cutlet

They used to be in a coffee shop at Kallang Bahru before moving to the current location. I was greeted with a smile when ordering at the counter. I decided to go with Chicken Cutlet ($6.50). The friendly chap at the counter asked, "What sauce do you want it with?" He said, "Why not try the Takoyaki sauce that we have newly created?" I asked, "Is it really nice?" He said, "I can guarantee. You have to add $1 for that sauce though. I will refund that $1 if it is not nice." I was asked to choose the side dishes and I opted for the mashed potato. 

I was given a buzzer after payment. It buzzed a while later, I went to the counter for collection. The same chap asked, "Have you collected your soup yet?" He pointed to the pot placed at the corner of the counter. I bought the food to the table and came back for the soup later. I took a bowl, lifted the cover of the pot and used the ladle for scooping the soup.

The deep-fried chicken cutlet was drizzled with mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce then topped with bonito flakes. My dining companion said, "It actually tasted just like Takoyaki and those who love this Japanese street snack might like it. " He also said, "I did not expect they serve the mashed potato with black pepper sauce, it tasted just strange."

I did not really like the chicken cutlet with takoyaki sauce but it is not bad enough to actually ask for the $1 refund. I did not manage to finish that bowl of free soup, it tasted like a carrot based vegetable soup.

My dining companion said, "It actually tasted better than the other Western food at Upper Thomson." There are many Western food stalls around but so far, none is actually as good as the TCB Grill over at Jurong East. Their grilled chicken chop is one of the best around.

Block 126 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 SINGAPORE 310126
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 9.30 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Que : Vietnamese food

The word "Que", meaning "hometown" in Vietnamese, is the stall name of this humble Vietnamese stall in a coffee shop nestled in the heartland of Toa Payoh Lorong 1, near to the food centre. It is manned single-handedly by a lady. She was originally from Vietnam but moved to Singapore about 15 years ago. I would not be able to tell that she is not a local as she did not speak with a foreign accent. She started this stall in January 2018 using the recipes from her mother to preserve the authenticity of these Vietnamese dishes. It is indicated on their signboard that "No MSG No Preservative" added to their food. 

I decided to go with Banh Mi ($6.50), there are the choices of beef and pork, I decided to go with the beef. I also ordered the Fried Spring Roll ($4.50) to share with my dining companion. Their most popular dishes are actually Bun Cha and Pho which I did not order. I might just try it next time. 

The lady boss served it to my table even though a buzzer was given to me when I ordered earlier. She asked, "Are you a blogger?" I was slightly taken aback as I was rather sure that she did not see me taking pictures of her stall. As I was not too chatty at that time so I replied, "No. We just happened to walk past the stall". I was actually looking for a Western food stall. She said, "Oh, really?" She handed me the chopsticks and walked away. I would have said yes if I knew I was captured by the CCTV that is installed above the signboard as I only realized it when going through the pictures much later.

Banh Mi is actually a Vietnamese baguette, it consists of thinly-shredded beef with pickled cucumber and shredded carrot sandwiched between the lightly toasted baguette then topped with cilantro. My dining companion said, "The baguette tasted fresh and soft though the overall flavor did not quite stand out."

My dining companion took a bite of the fried spring roll and said, "This is quite nice and there is actually minced meat in it." It was quite flavorful, nicely fried to the desired crispiness and not overly greasy, served along with a vinegar dipping sauce. 

We were quite impressed by the standard of the food here and quite enjoyed it, especially the Fried Spring Roll. 

Block 125 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-523 Johnson Eatery SINGAPORE 310125
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 4.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Tian Tian Porridge : homely comfort food

It was the day after the spring cleaning in this food centre and most of the stalls were still closed including some of my regular choices thus the options were quite limited. This porridge stall is amongst the pioneer stalls in this food centre and it is still cooked by the white-haired elderly stall owner assisted by an elderly auntie that reminded me of my late Grandma. There are 2 choices on their menu, the Cantonese style Fish Porridge and Pork Porridge, available in 3 sizes, the smaller at $3, the medium at $4 and the large portion at $5. They used to serve raw fish but no longer now. The noodle stall beside is related, run by the family members. 

There was just another customer in front of me at about 11 am. The middle-aged Uncle took my order. He talked with me in Cantonese but when I replied in Mandarin, he started talking with me in a not-so-fluent Mandarin, though not too difficult for me to understand. I wanted to order Pork Porridge, I did not specify the size so it is the smaller portion by default. He asked me, "Everything in?". I nodded. He asked me to take a seat but I offered to wait at the stall for it to be ready. It was ready in about 5 minutes. 

The texture of the porridge was smooth and not too runny with ingredients like minced pork balls, sliced lean meat and pork liver with you tiao. There is something homely and welcoming about this bowl of porridge and I enjoyed it. 

Block 335 Smith Street #02-185 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 6.00 am to 2.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Old Amoy Chendol : a bowl of simple goodness

It was founded in the 1950s started from a pushcart along Amoy Street but closed in 2004 and recently revived by the owner's grandson, Zhao Youning, 32, the former model and chef Justin Foo of Provisions. It is based on the original recipe from his retired Grandpa. The stall has been around for more than a year, located at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre and it only serves Chendol at $2 per bowl.

They insist in using the fresh cold-pressed coconut milk and not the coconut milk powder like some other stalls, that might compromise the taste. They are using gula melaka that is sourced from an artisanal producer in Sarawak and not brown sugar, which is often a cheaper alternative. 

The pandan jelly worms are made of mung bean flour with juice extracted from the pandan juice, the texture is much softer as compared to those that are factory-made and it has a light pandan flavor. The mashed red bean is soft though not overly mushy at just the right level of sweetness. Everything is made from scratch on a daily basis. Both ingredients are placed on a pile of shaved ice together with coconut milk and the caramelized gula melaka in a porcelain bowl.

It tasted fresh with not a bit of artificial flavoring detected though I prefer the coconut milk to be slightly sweeter and creamier with a stronger gula melaka flavor. It has been a while to come across such a refreshing bowl of chendol. Such simple pleasure of life brings happiness. 

Block 335 Smith Street #02-008 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 8.30 pm (Daily)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Xin Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice : not just taste but service matters, too

This is one of the stalls with a queue during lunch on a weekday. The friendly auntie greeted me with a smile. I decided to go with Chicken Drumstick rice. I asked, "How much?". The auntie replied, "$3.50". And, I said, "It is at least $4.00 or more at other places." She replied, "We could not afford to sell it any higher as we are located in a hawker centre unlike those in the air-conditioned food court."

There was a young chap ordered right after me. She recognized him and asked, "Buying for your mother? She is so lucky to have a son buying lunch for her."

I shared it with my dining companion and we agreed that the roasted chicken tasted just normal. The rice was quite a big portion but the flavor was rather light and slightly dry. It was served with a bowl of lightly flavored soup. The chilli was slightly diluted with a mild level of spiciness. 

Sometimes it is not just the taste of the food that kept bringing the customers back but the service matters too. I was told by a hawker that I should not expect customer service from the hawker stall as I do not pay the service charge. The stall closed it down a few months later after that particular encounter. It was a popular noodle stall serving in a food centre.

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-20 Upper Boon Keng Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Penang Fried Kway Teow : around for 20 years

This stall only serves Penang Fried Kway Teow for $3.00 per plate. The Aunty saw me taking pictures of her stall. She asked, "You are taking pictures?". I replied, "I want to tell my friends about your stall as there are not many stalls serving Penang Fried Kway Teow these days." 

She said, "We are the second generation hawker, the stall has been handed down from my parents and it has been around for over 20 years in this food centre." And, I said, "Some of the younger hawkers only managed to be around for a few months before quitting it." She continued to say, "It is not easy to run a hawker stall these days. I read about it in the newspaper. It has been very much monopolized." I asked, "How much is your rental?" She replied, "All in all is around $2,000. The cleaning fee itself is already about few hundreds." I asked, "May I know your operating hours?" Aunty replied, "Better do not say, I will close when it is sold out."

It did not actually taste like the Penang Fried Kway Teow but more like a healthier version of usual Fried Kway Teow. The kway teow was broken up in the smaller pieces, it was served with a generous amount of bean sprouts added together with choy sum and other ingredients like lup cheong, prawns and cockles. The level of spiciness of the chilli was mild. 

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-08 Upper Boon Keng Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017

Thursday, November 22, 2018

33 Vegetarian Food : mock chicken rice

Mr Sow, the owner, used to be selling chicken rice at this stall for 15 years together with his wife before he decided to convert it to a vegetarian stall in 2014 after he and his wife became vegetarian. This is not the usual vegetarian stall as they do not serve fried bee hoon nor economy mixed vegetable rice. Their menu consists of all sorts of mock chicken dishes, like Chicken Burger, Chicken Cutlet, Chicken Nuggets with fries, Curry Chicken Noodle, Thai Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken and also Chicken Rice. Their most popular item on the menu is the Healthy Chicken Rice Set ($6.80). It consists of the mock version steamed chicken and roasted chicken made using tofu skin accompanied by a portion of achar and blanched vegetable with oyster sauce together with a bowl of soup. I decided to go with the set. 

My dining companion was amazed by how realistically resembles the steamed chicken, it has a layer of jelly-like skin, just like the real stuff. He said, "I would have thought this is the real chicken just by looking at it but it did not quite taste like it." The roasted chicken actually reminded me of those fried beancurd sheets that are usually served with vegetarian fried bee hoon. 

The chilli and ginger paste actually tasted like those at the usual chicken rice stalls, which is good and it definitely enhanced the overall flavor. 

The texture of the rice rather light and fluffy but not as fragrant. That bowl of winter melon soup was quite flavorful though. 

Nonetheless, it is definitely a good alternative for vegetarians that miss eating the chicken rice. I am impressed with such a specially-curated vegetarian menu.

Block 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-33 Teck Ghee Square Food Centre SINGAPORE 560409
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Thu to Mon) / 11.00 am to 6.00 pm (Tue)
(Closed on Wednesdays)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Yaloh : Herbal Roasted Duck, must try

On 13 November 2018, there was a free delivery provided to Ang Mo Kio. I took the opportunity to order and tried the Herbal Roasted Duck for the first time. I ordered by sending a WhatsApp to the number stated. A response was received later. The order was confirmed and I paid via PayNow to reserve a duck and for it to be delivered to the drop-off point of my house.

On Tuesday, a message was received at 5.30 pm informing me that the duck has been despatched from the kitchen. It was mentioned that the estimated delivery time would be 10 minutes. I replied that I would be waiting at the drop-off point at my place. A message was received to inform that it has reached the other carpark. Jovison actually made the effort to walk over when I mentioned I was at the drop-off point of the other carpark. He handed the duck to me and reminded me to give a review after that. 

The duck was nicely packed in 2 boxes with the 2 portions of herbal sauce and chilli. It actually tasted just like the herbal roasted duck from Dian Xiao Er but at a more affordable price. They have a stall at Golden Mile Food Centre. Though the duck was roasted with various types of herbs, the flavor was rather light and the skin was slightly soggy but it still tasted good when eating it with the herbal sauce.  You could choose to pour over the roasted duck or use it as a dipping sauce. It has a distinctive taste of Dang Gui (当归) or Chinese Angelica Root, though slightly strong but not overpowering. I would prefer to eat it without the chilli as it has not much effect in enhancing the flavor.

This is an alternative for the herbal roasted duck. It is as good if not better, a must try. 

505 Beach Road #01-109 Golden Mile Food Centre SINGAPORE 199583
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mei Seng Kway Teow Mee : cheap & good

This stall had the longest queue in the food centre during lunch on a Sunday. I decided to join the queue out of curiosity. There is the option to choose between the dry or soup at $2.50 and $3.00. They might be one of the few stalls that are still selling their bowls of noodles from $2.50. Where else to actually get a bowl of noodles at this price? The light of the signboard went off after I joined the queue. Two of the customers went to queue after me but was told no more and so, I was the lucky one to get their last bowl.

I went with the larger portion of mee pok, it was served along with a bowl of soup that contains ingredients like the fishball, fishcake, sliced meat and minced meat. 

After tossing the mee pok to mix it with the chill and chopped spring onion, my dining companion had his first mouthful and he said, "Their special chill did not taste as spicy as it looked. And, it actually made the mee pok tasted special and different from the others." The noodles were cooked well, it was tender but firm to the bite.

My dining companion tasted the soup and said, "The soup is unexpectedly tasty, it is nice. The combination of the noodles and soup is good." 

Most of their customers actually ordered the dry mee tai mak and it was also the first to run out. I like it enough to want to come back for more.

Block 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-37 Teck Ghee Square Food Centre SINGAPORE 560409
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 4.00 pm