Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ming's Prawn Noodle by a Gen-Y Hawker

Cai Jiaming, 26, started this hawker stall after graduated from At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy serving prawn noodle. He heads to Jurong Fishery Port almost every day as early as 3 am to select the freshest prawns before proceeding to the wet market to get the pork ribs then to his stall to start preparing the master stock to be used for the prawn noodle. Their menu is kept simple, there are prawn noodle and pork ribs noodles at $3.50 each, for dry and for soup version. There is also an option to have both the prawns and pork ribs at $5 per portion. 

I decided to go with the Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle. It was ready in just a bit, and I was asked to help myself with the fried lard, ground chilli powder, and the sliced red chilli. A packet of wet tissue was placed together with the bowls of noodles and soup on the tray. I requested for an extra amount of chilli to be added, and I topped it with 2 spoonfuls of the ground chilli powder together with a handful of fried lard.

The soup served hot, it tasted light and even so it was still flavorful with a slight prawny taste. As for the prawn noodle, it came with a good portion of yellow noodles that were cooked to the right texture, with 3 pieces of medium-sized prawns and 3 pieces of pork ribs together with bean sprouts and kang kong. The pork ribs were not as fatty, it has a thin layer of meat that was cooked to the desired tenderness. The prawns were rather plump and it tasted really fresh. 

It is heartening to see such a passionate young hawker in doing his part to contribute and preserve our hawker culture. 

120 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-01 Alexandra Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 150120
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Monday, July 24, 2017

628 Soya Sauce Chicken in Ang Mo Kio

This is one of the newest stalls in this food centre that opened in March 2017, it used to be a mixed vegetable rice stall that was around for quite a few years. I was their only customer when I went for dinner at about 6 pm. I decided to go with their Soya Sauce Chicken Drumstick Noodle at $4.50, it is $1.50 more expensive as compared to their regular Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle at just $3 for their dry and soup version. If you do not like the noodle, there is an option to have with horfun too. Apparently, it is only $4 if you order the Soya Sauce Chicken Drumstick Rice. 

If you are thinking of getting half or a whole chicken, there are 2 sizes. The smaller chicken is $7 for half and $14 for the whole, the bigger chicken is $11 for half and $22 for the whole, it is served with some braised peanuts. You can choose to go with rice or noodle for just $1.00 each. They also served BBQ Pork Noodle for $3, it is actually the roasted pork that they are using. 

It tasted close to the Michelin-starred Hawker Chan Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken, which is not even that good, to begin with, and definitely not quite worthy of that Michelin award as there are many better Soya Sauce Chicken in Singapore just like Lee Fun Nam Kee in Toa Payoh and Chiew Kee Soya Sauce Chicken in Chinatown, which are my current favourites. Even this Soya Sauce Chicken from 628 Soya Sauce Chicken is not too bad as well. You should give it a try if you happen to be in this food centre. 

Block 628 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-59 AMK 628 Food Centre SINGAPORE 560628
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nasi Lemak Specialist @ Street 11 : Beef Rendang Nasi Lemak

This recently opened stall is owned by Madam Mazwin and working alone with her son, Qadir Yusoff, serving Nasi Lemak, Mee Siam, Mee Rebus, Lontong and Chicken Briyani during the weekends. Her sister owned a stall in AMK 628 Food Centre, their signboards are identical and they have a similar menu. 

I was there at about 1 pm when they were about to close and most of the items have already finished. I wanted the Beef Rendang set ($5.50) but was told that they have already run out of Begedil (potato cutlet) and Madam Mazwin offered to take 0.50 cents off from the set. I added the remaining piece of the chicken wing for $1.50. The set also includes a fried egg with some ikan belis and peanuts. 

My dining companion prefers the beef rendang to their chicken wing, the chicken wing though had had its crispiness but not as flavorful within. The beef rendang was pretty good. It had an amazingly tender texture and a depth of flavor with complexity. 

All of their ingredients are freshly prepared and cooking it directly from scratch to give it a homely taste. Just like some of the other Malay stalls, they are using basmati rice though it is not a common choice as the cost incurred is usually higher. It is cooked using freshly squeezed coconut milk for an aromatic fragrance and a lighter texture. The sambal tumis has a slight sweetness with a rather mild level of spiciness but it complemented the rice well.

Their Lontong is as highly recommended but it usually sold out quite early and I did not get to eat it this time. 

137 Tampines Street 11 #01-14 Tampines Round Market SINGAPORE 521137
Operating Hours: 7.30 am to 1.00 pm

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Seasalt - the Seafood Place : Fish & Chips done right

Seasalt - the Seafood Place started on 8 December 2013 and they used to be at Salute, a hipster coffee shop in Jalan Bukit Merah before moving to the current location about a year ago. They are located just a stone's throw from Marymount MRT station. They aim to serve fresh and simple seafood with a touch of salty love as mentioned on their website. There is an ordering kiosk at the left of the stall, you are expected to order by selecting the items listed via touch screen and make payment using NETS.

For starters, I decided to order the fried calamari with marinara sauce ($8) that is listed as one of their recommended options on their menu. There is also a grilled calamari Cajun style ($8) as well. There are other interesting items on the menu like grilled mushroom salad ($5), fried country mushroom with cheese and lemon butter ($6), fried white baits ($6) and fried crispy crab bites with sambal ($6).

The must-try has to be their hand battered fish served with fries and green. First, you have to select the type of fish followed by the type of sauce. There are a few choices of fish, like the dory (soft and moist texture) at $9, snapper (flaky and moist texture) at $13 and premium haddock (cold water fish with flaky texture) at $13. As for the sauces, the choices include their signature lemon butter ($1), nacho cheese ($2), wasabi mayo ($2) and creamy salted egg ($3). I decided to go with premium haddock as this was the first time that I came across this fish and wanted it to go with their signature lemon butter. There is also a grilled and baked section and you have only the option of choosing either dory or snapper. I opted for the grilled snapper together with their signature lemon butter sauce. I picked up a pager from the counter and scanned it before proceeding with the payment using NETS. 

I waited for about 15 minutes before the pager buzzed. I went to the counter, collected the 2 main dishes and was told to hold on to the pager as the calamari is not ready yet. It buzzed again in a few minutes, and I went back to pick up the starter. I realized that it did not come with any sauce and so, I went back to the counter again. I was told to wait for a bit while they checked the order. The staff apologized and offered to send the sauce over to our table when is ready. 

The grilled snapper was a good choice, the fillet came in 2 pieces and was lightly seasoned so as not to overwhelm the flavor and also, to bring out its natural taste. It was served with a pile of rice that consists of sliced mushroom, it tasted rather healthy with a slight taste of coriander. 

The deep-fried premium haddock came in 2 pieces, lightly drizzled with the signature lemon butter sauce and served along with fries and green. It was lightly battered and perfectly fried to a desired crispiness but still retained its moistness within. Ernest explained that a lighter batter is used so that their customers will taste more fish in each bite and not having to eat a thick coat of batter just to get to the fish. My only gripe is more lemon better sauce should be provided as it complemented the fish rather well.

I totally enjoyed the fried calamari, it was lightly battered and fried to perfection without compromising its texture. It tasted so fresh and tender, this was amongst the best that I have ever eaten. I would rather eat it on its own and without the accompanying marinara sauce which did not have much effect in enhancing the taste further. Ernest, the owner, mentioned that they started with frozen squid rings but the texture was too rubbery and does not meet the required standard. They then started to experiment with fresh squid and have been using it since then. 

Ernest came over to ask, "How's the food?". I pointed at the empty plate and said, "This is really nice." He asked, "What type of fish did you order?" I replied, "Haddock." He said, "Usually those that know how to eat fish will go for it." He mentioned that their customers compared their fish & chips with the one by Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro and rated it of the same standard. And, some of these customers traveled all the way from other parts of Singapore just to eat it every week. To maintain its freshness and quality, only limited portions of certain popular fish choices are served daily as serving it fresh and simple is always their philosophy.

If you are a fan of fish & chips, you will have to give this place a try as they serve one of the better fish & chips in Singapore. 

38 Jalan Pemimpin #01-04 M38 SINGAPORE 577178
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm / 5.30 pm to 9.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Seafood White Bee Hoon : one of the best in Ang Mo Kio

You Huak Restaurant in Sembawang is likely to be the first to serve white bee hoon before it gained its popularity and they are believed to be the creator of this popular dish. I still remember those times that I joined the long queue to get a table there for their signature white bee hoon. Through the years, they went through a rebranding and also expanded to include a few other branches under the new name of White Restaurant, which is named after their famous white bee hoon. When this dish started to get popular, there are also other hawker stalls and Zi Char places starting to serve it.

There are 2 hawker stalls that are serving this dish in this food centre near my place, I have tried both and actually prefer the white bee hoon from this particular stall more. I have been one of their regular customers since their opening. Simon, the owner, used to work as a chef at a restaurant in London for many years. He started this stall about a year ago as they were still not that many stalls serving white bee hoon at that time. He is the only one that does the cooking so the standard has been quite consistent so far. He is a friendly chap and he often asked, "Why you did not come for so long?" even though my last visit was just a month ago.

I usually go for their basic portion for just $5.00 that is served with only prawns and clams, their ingredients are always fresh. Simon even made an effort to sear the prawns before cooking it to give it a delightful smoky flavor. He has also wok-fried the bee hoon to give it the charred flavor then left it aside and cooked it with the ingredients in the broth then served along with their freshly prepared fried lard.

During my recent visit, he was telling me that he experimented and using an improved recipe for his white bee hoon. I have told him before that his white bee hoon is amongst the most flavorful ones as compared to the others that I have eaten in Ang Mo Kio, that is probably explained why there is often a queue at his stall. 

Block 628 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-49 628 AMK Food Centre SINGAPORE 560628
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.00 pm / 4.00 pm to 8.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Donya Japanese Cuisine : affordable Japanese fare in the heartland

This is a newly opened Japanese food stall in a coffee shop directly opposite the food centre at Toa Payoh Lorong 1. They aim to bring premium Japanese donburi and sushi to the heartlands at affordable prices from $5.80 to $9.80, using quality ingredients to bring forth dishes that are of standards as good as the restaurants at coffee shop prices. Japanese fare is not necessarily to be expensive these days as there are more and more such hawker stalls even though their standard might not be as high as those Japanese restaurants, it is usually pretty close.

I decided to go with their Chicken Katsu Don ($5.80) and Mentai Maki ($5.80). I was told that my number is 59 after making payment. I asked, "How would I know when it is ready?" The friendly lady at the counter, said, "We will ring the bell and shout the number." I managed to find a table that is not too far from their counter so I could hear it when the number is called. I had waited for about 10 minutes before I heard my number being called. I went to the counter, collected both items and walked away. Just a couple of seconds later, the chap came over with the miso soup. He said, "You still have a bowl of miso soup." I suppose that miso soup came along with the Chicken Katsu Don. The service was friendly and they even made an effort to say "Thank You," which is commendable.

The Chicken Katsu Don is of a pretty good value, it consists of a thick piece of perfectly fried breaded chicken simmered in a soy-dashi based broth with shredded onion with beaten egg then sprinkled with dried shredded seaweed and scallions before serving. The breading on the fried chicken has absorbed the delightful flavor of the broth and went well with rice. This is the nicest hawker-style Chicken Katsu Don that I have eaten, it is even better than the other one by Konomi Zen, another Japanese hawker stall at the food centre near where I stay. Again, there is a difference in price though, that one by Konomi Zen is priced at $3.50 but it came with a thinner slice of Chicken Katsu.

They are likely to be the first hawker stall that serves premium sushi rolls like Mentai Maki. The California Maki was topped with mentaiko sauce then lightly torched before finishing off with tobiko (flying fish roe), serving in 4 pieces for just $5.80, which is affordable and probably one of the cheapest ones around.

There are other items on their menu that I am interested in trying like the Unagi Tama Don ($8.80), Salmon Mentai Don ($8.80), Chicken Teriyaki Don ($6.80), Donya Maki ($5.80) and also the Gyoza ($3.80).

Block 126 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 SINGAPORE 310126
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.30 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

118 Secret Recipe Assam Laksa : Not my preferred choice

It was from one of the posts on Facebook that I got to know about this Assam Laksa in a coffee shop at Toa Payoh Lorong 1. My current favorite is Penang Signature Assam Laksa at Bukit Timah Food Centre and they have been for more than a year. That stall was featured in my article on Makansutra when I wrote about best eats around Beauty World MRT after tasting it for the first time and I still go back regularly whenever I crave for Assam Laksa. When visiting this stall at Toa Payoh for the first time, there was no one at the stall at 2.15 pm with a "Lunch Hour" signage placed at the counter. I made a comment on their Facebook and was told that it is best to come before 2 pm. I was there the second time and it happened to be after 2 pm as well but this time, there was someone at the stall and that I was the only customer at that time.

There is only Assam Laksa on their menu, the smaller portion is at $4 and the larger portion is at $5. I went with the $5 portion. As it is self-service, I stood right there and waiting it to be ready. It was done in a few minutes, serving in those paper bowls with disposable chopsticks and spoon. I helped myself with the red cut chilies and prawn paste, both were placed at the counter.

They choose to use the normal thick bee hoon rather than those thick curly rice noodles that are commonly used in the Assam Laksa served in Penang and so there is a discount on their authenticity, it was served with fish chunks, thin slices of pineapple with mint leaves and lettuce. Though it is prepared using their secret recipe as indicated on their signboard, the laksa gravy was admittedly a little too light and watery with a more sourish taste and not as spicy as expected to be. There is also noticeably less fish for $5, which is more expensive as compared to my favorite stall that I mentioned earlier, which is at $3.50 each bowl.

I left it unfinished as I really did not like it. 

Block 125 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 SINGAPORE 310125
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Monday, July 10, 2017

25 Degrees Singapore at G Hotel, Middle Road

This burger & liquor bar originated from the famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel at Los Angeles in the United States with branches in Chicago and Bangkok; it has also recently opened a branch in Singapore at the G Hotel along Middle Road. It is named after the precise temperature difference between a raw and well-done hamburger.

I was there on the Independence Day for lunch, the restaurant was almost full at that time, but it was still possible to get a table for 1 pax. I was there for their lunch special that they have on weekdays, it consists of a burger with fries for just $12++. I asked for a recommendation and was told that Number One burger is their popular choice. I asked to change the fries to onion rings for an additional $1.50 to have it go along with a Strawberry Milkshake ($10.00++).

There is a total of 5 burgers on their menu; you could choose between the Number One, Number Two, Number Three, Number Four and also a Veggie Burger at $14 each. Number One to Number Two burgers are served with beef patties and different fillings, but Number Four is served with seared Yellowfin Tuna with lettuce, crispy fried onions, and spicy aioli. There is also an option to "Craft Your Own" burger by choosing the type of meat and cheese, sauces and even add on extra toppings.

The Strawberry Milkshake came first. The chilled milkshake is made of real ice-cream topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. 

I waited for quite a while for it to be served but it is well worth it though as the burger arrives juicy and tender with crispy onion rings. The Number One burger is a classic American burger with a premium twist which comprises of USA Angus beef patty, creamy Crescenza cheese, Gorgonzola Prelibato cheese, smoky bacon, caramelized onions, arugula with Thousand Island sauce. The burger for lunch special is the smaller version as compared to their ala-carte order and even so, the meat to bun ratio is quite perfect, without being overwhelming and the buns were not too dry but eating it can still be quite messy though.

Overall, it is not great, but it is not half bad as well though the taste can never be as authentic as their original outlet in Los Angeles. And, night owls will be glad to know that the last call for the kitchen is 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 am for the rest of the week.

200 Middle Road G Hotel SINGAPORE 188980
Operating Hours: 11.00 to 1.00 am (Sun to Thur) / 11.00 am to 3.00 am (Fri to Sat)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Deanna's Kitchen : the first Halal Prawn Mee at Toa Payoh

This Muslim-owned stall opened on 9 June 2017 in the Toa Payoh West Food Centre at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, serving Halal Prawn Mee. Denise Chew, the owner, is a Chinese that converted to Muslim. I mentioned about this stall to a friend and he said, "Are you sure this is going to be nice since there is no fried pork lards added to it?" I invited this friend to come along with me when visiting this stall on a weekday. There was no other customer when we were there during lunch. Denise is still working full-time so the stall is manned by Asri, her husband, and even so, she will come in the morning as early as 4 am to do the preparation including cooking the soup before she goes to work and back to the stall in the evening after work.

I ordered the Big Prawn Noodles at $6.50, the number 2 item on their menu board, the other choices are Regular Prawn Noodles ($3.50), Prawn Noodles with Clams ($6.50), Very Big Prawn Noodles ($12.00) and Prawn Noodles with Crayfish ($12.50) that was sold out. I was asked, "What type of noodles? Do you want kang kong and bean sprouts?" I decided to go with the yellow noodles with kang kong and bean sprouts added. The Big Prawn Noodles came with 4 pieces of medium-sized prawns that tasted very fresh with slices of fishcake, kang kong and bean sprouts. 

My friend tasted it and he said, "It is very nice." And, I asked, "What is so nice about it?" He said, "The broth has an intense flavour with a nice sweetness. I wonder did they added MSG to enhance its flavour?" He said, "We should also try the dry version." The broth is the best part of this dish, it tasted rich and flavorful even without using the pork bone to boil it, which is usually part of the main ingredients. 

I went back to the stall and was told that there is no dry version at this moment as they do not have enough manpower to cater it. Asri said, "I even get my auntie to help out." I said, "The broth is flavorful with a nice sweetness." He pointed to a big pot right behind and he said that almost half of the pot consists of the ingredients like prawn heads, shells and chicken. He said, "We boil it for 6 hours to bring out the flavour." I told him that the noodles were cooked just right to the desired texture and it was enjoyable. He mentioned that consistency is important but when there is a crowd, it is slightly difficult to maintain it and even so, they are striving to keep up the standard. 

And, they fry their own dried shallots to ensure quality food is being served despite it is time-consuming and a laborious process. They also do not reuse the oil to fry another batch but using the same oil to fry the prawn heads and shells so it will have the fragrance of the shallots. 

This is likely to be the first ever Halal prawn mee and is definitely worth the try.

Block 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 Toa Payoh West Food Centre #02-25 SINGAPORE 310127
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Wednesdays to Fridays) / 9.00 am to 8.00 pm (Saturdays) / 
9.00 am to 2.00 pm (Sundays) (Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Meld Grilled Kitchen at M38, Jalan Pemimpin

It is mentioned on their Facebook page that they serve fusion cuisine such as those from Switzerland, Italian, French and Japanese and is supposedly carefully prepared by a former chef from an established restaurant. I would think it is too ambitious in wanting to serve a bit of everything from different countries. Nonetheless, I was curious enough to order from this stall to see how good does it fare. I went with the item listed as M102 which they named it Chicken Boneless Crusted Cereal for $9.80. It comprises of a fried breaded chicken served with truffle fries, garden salad with their homemade sauce. There is no description of their homemade sauce on the menu. I was given a pager and I walked away, one of their staff came after me with the name card and said, I could refer to their Facebook page for their dishes. When I went back to collect my order, it was just left at the counter with no one attending it.

It was served on a large rectangular plate, the fried breaded chicken came in 2 pieces with truffle fries and baked bean served separately in the bowls and garden salad by the side. 

The breaded chicken seemed to be a bit too dark though no burnt taste detected and even so, it tasted quite bland. The homemade sauce was unexpectedly spicy which I did not like. The garden salad consists of a pile of lettuce, red cabbage and cherry tomatoes with a handful of sweet corns and olives with thousand island dressing.

The Western fare at this stall is quite disappointing so if you are there, you might want to go for other choices like Burgerlicious, the other stall just next to this stall or if you are adventurous enough, you might want to try the Indian stall at the corner or even seafood dishes from Seasalt - The Seafood Place.

38 Jalan Pemimpin #01-04 M38 Building SINGAPORE 577178
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 10.30 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Burgerlicious : Keeping it real

Burgerlicious is a new burger stall that recently opened on 19 June 2017 at M38, an "atas" coffee shop along Jalan Pemimpin, within walking distance from Marymount MRT. It is brought to you by the same people behind Seasalt - The Seafood Place that used to be at Salute, a coffee shop in Jalan Bukit Merah before moving to the current location about a year ago. Ernest Ang is one of the owners and he was there when I placed my order.

I decided on the Burgerlicious Cheesy ($9.50) and when I was asked whether I want it with side dishes, I asked for a recommendation. There are choices of Potato Tots ($2.00), Sweet Potato Fries ($2.50) and Onion Tails ($2.50). Ernest recommended that I should go with Sweet Potato Fries which I did. Other than the classics burgers, some of their signatures are Grilled Pork Belly Confit Burger ($10.00), Pork Bulgogi Burger ($9.00) and Kung Pao Chicken Burger ($9.50). 

Burgerlicious Cheesy consists of a grilled Australian beef patty, mayo, greens, nacho cheese, smoking BBQ sauce, sauteed onions, bacon, tomato and a sunny-side-up egg. 

Ernest came over to our table and he asked, "How's the food?". He said he has been doing so to collect feedbacks from his customers in order to improve on it further. And, he said, "I also went around trying other burgers and comparing them to mines." He listed out some of the famous ones that he tried like the recently opened 25 Degrees, Two Blur Guys, Fatboy's The Burger Bar and even Corner Burger. And, the burger from 25 Degrees is amongst his favourite choices. He even showed us the food pictures that he took on his phone. He shared, "I ever went to a burger stall and asked for their recommendation before deciding what to eat. The owner was telling me that all of their 9 choices of burgers are good which I am not convinced, there must be something special or a more popular item amongst these burgers."

He said, "I do not cook the burgers all the time but I supervise and make sure that my workers can deliver the same standard. I have friends coming over and they requested that I cook for them but instead, I tell them that let my workers cook for you as they are the ones that do most of the cooking and who knows, they are able to cook better than me."

I was impressed with the burger but I felt that the price is a little on the high side which I shared with Ernest. It would be more acceptable if it is served with sides for $9.50 and not just the burger itself. Again, I suppose most of the customers would not mind paying a little more for better quality and also, to take into consideration that their rental is much higher therefore it is somewhat acceptable. 

I enjoyed chatting with Ernest. He is passionate, humble and rather knowledgeable in the food business, which impressed me. He said, "If you come back 6 months later and the burger stall is still here, this means it made it." We shall wait and see but I do hope that they will do well and stay around as they do serve one of the better burgers.

38 Jalan Pemimpin #01-04 M38 SINGAPORE 577178
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 3.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)