Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tow Kwar Pop : it has been around for 50 years and counting

It started by 2 brothers in 1965 and it has been around for more than 50 years since then. This stall serves Rojak set at $4.00 and $5.00.  It consists of their signature Tow Kear Pop, Cuttlefish, Fried Dough Fritter, Pineapple, Turnip, Green Papaya and also slices of Apple. It was served with 2 types of sauces separately in the saucers, the dark sweet sauce that tasted a little sourish and a rich and fragrant Shrimp Paste. I enjoyed dipping those pieces of the Rojak into the sauces. I could decide the amount of sauce that I liked in such a way and by serving the sauces separately, the Tow Kwar Pop and Cuttlefish would not get soaked in it and it will remain crisp to the last bite. 

An extra portion of sauce is chargeable at $3.00 as well as for other ingredients like Tow Pok ($1), You Tiao ($1), Dried Fish Fillet ($2) and Cuttlefish ($5) are available at different prices. It was sprinkled with some ground peanuts for a rich nutty flavor. 

The Tow Kwar Pops were freshly toasted over the charcoal, it was meticulously grilled by flipping around to make sure every side was toasted to a slight crisp in a traditional way before cutting it up and adding in to be part of the Rojak. Each Tow Kwar Pop was stuffed with blanched bean sprouts and shredded cucumber. 

The portion is good for a light snack or to go in between meals. This is definitely amongst one of the best Rojak and is a must-try if you are at Tiong Bahru Food Centre. 

30 Seng Poh Road #02-06 Tiong Bahru Food Centre SINGAPORE 168898
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ang Mo Kio Lor Mee . Laksa : a part of my growing up memories

This stall has been a part of my growing up memories. When my mother was still around, she usually brought me here for the Laksa, she would just ordered a bowl to share with me but I was too young to really appreciate the taste. After she left, I did not get to visit this stall as often though I still followed my late Grandpa to this food centre and we usually eat at Chia Keng Kway Teow Mee. I visited again a few years ago but the taste was not quite memorable. This stall serves only Lor Mee and Laksa at $3.00 and $4.00. I was here with a friend on a Sunday, the queue was still long even though it has already past the lunch hour. We decided to order the small portion of Laksa and Lor Mee to share. 

I went for the Laksa first. It tasted quite simple with a slightly diluted gravy and ingredients like tau pok, fish cake, cockles and hard-boiled egg together with a handful of bean sprouts then garnished with laksa leaves and sambal chilli. Somehow, it seemed to taste much nicer when I had it with my mother. 

The Lor Mee served with a few slices of braised meat, fish cake, ngor hiang, hard-boiled egg and bean sprouts garnished with chopped coriander, minced garlic and sambal chilli to serve. They used to serve with fried wanton but they have stopped making it. The gravy was slightly too watery to my liking and I did not like it as much as there are other better choices for Lor Mee around. 

I could not quite understand the persistent long queue right in front of this stall, the Laksa and Lor Mee are not amongst the best ever tasted but I guess, it is the familiarity and comforts of the dishes that kept the customer to keep coming back. 

Block 453A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-17 Chong Boon Food Centre SINGAPORE 560453
Operating Hours: 6.00 am to 2.30 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kok Sen Restaurant : awarded Bib Gourmand by Michelin for 2016 & 2017

Kok Sen Restaurant has been awarded the Bib Gourmand by Michelin for 2016 and 2017. It is an old-school Cantonese-style Cze Char that has been around for more than 37 years and is popular amongst the local, passing down from Kau Kee, the founder to Kok Sen, his son and now to the third generation. 

We were there on a Thursday for dinner and it was still early, there was no queue yet. We decided to go with their signature dishes like Big Prawn Horfun, Claypot Yong Tau Fu and Prawn Paste Chicken. 

Their most popular dish has to be their Big Prawn Horfun, starting from $16 for the smallest portion to $32 for a medium portion and $48 for the largest portion.  You could taste the distinctive wok flavor amidst those nicely charred rice noodles. The gravy was a bit too spicy for my dining companion as he has little tolerance towards spicy food. Those big prawns tasted relatively fresh and we liked it. The portion is good enough to be shared amongst 2 people. 

Though their Prawn Paste Chicken ($12 / $18 / $24) might not be as popular as the other dishes that we ordered, it was quite good though and easily one of the better Prawn Paste Chicken that We have tasted. I liked it enough to want to go back for it. They do not use chicken wings but different parts of the chicken for this dish. It was perfectly fried to crispiness with an intense prawn paste flavor. 

The Claypot Yong Tau Fu ($14 / $21 / $28) is also a recommended dish to order. It consists of assorted pieces of Yong Tau Fu like the beancurd skin, brinjal, chilli and all these came stuffed with fish and prawn paste. I enjoyed the homely taste but my dining companion did not like it as much.

The queue is usually quite long if you come during lunch or dinner and to avoid such a long waiting time, you might consider making a reservation. 

30 Keong Saik Road SINGAPORE 089137
Operating Hours: 12.00 to 2.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm (Closed on Alternate Mondays)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tiong Bahru Lor Mee : a comforting choice

There are 2 stalls serving Lor Mee in this food centre and both are equally popular. This one is serving a traditional Lor Mee with the usual ingredients and the other is focusing more on fried shark fish nuggets. Apparently, both stalls are not the original stalls from the Seng Poh Road Market that was demolished in 2004. The 2 original stalls that used to be there were moved out, one of them is currently at Bukit Batok and the other has already ceased operation. 

It was a Saturday when I went for lunch. This was the only option as the other stall was closed on that day. It was located at the corner and you might not get to see the queue from far. There are 3 sizes available, the smallest one at $3 then followed by $4 and the largest portion is at $5. I told the Auntie, "The $4 portion with extra ingredients." She replied, "so the $5 portion la." 

It came with a substantial portion of flat yellow noodles in flavorful gooey gravy with ingredients like slices of fishcake and ngor hiang, fried fish nuggets, stewed pork belly and braised egg, serving with sambal chill, red/green chopped chillies, and minced garlic. Overall, it was not too bad though not amongst my top 3 choices. 

30 Seng Poh Road #02-80 Tiong Bahru Food Centre SINGAPORE 168898
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 8.00 pm (Daily)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Serangoon Nasi Padang : a Chinese Nasi Padang stall

Mr and Mrs Tan, the owners, have been selling nasi padang since 1983 when they started their first stall in Serangoon and that very much explained why it is called "Serangoon Nasi Padang" when they are actually located in Bishan. Mr Tan used to help out in those Malay weddings and that is how he learned to cook nasi padang. This is one of those stalls manned by Chinese that is not quite common 

All the dishes are prepared using the freshest ingredients and that including the freshly squeezed coconut cream. Most than 30 dishes are prepared each day and some of the popular choices are curry fish, fried chicken, grilled sotong, grilled fish and so on. These dishes are prepared in small batches to serve warm and also to ensure its freshness. The queue was long when we were there for lunch on a Sunday. While queuing, we were eyeing the last few pieces of the egg omelette on the display shelf but did not get to order as the last piece was taken by the customer in front of us. 

We ordered 2 plates with different dishes. We were asked whether we want it with gravy and chilli. The first plate consists of Ayam Goreng, Sambal Goreng, and Sambal Kangkong. Ayam Goreng, a Malay-style fried chicken dish, is the must-order right here. The best part would have to be the chicken leg. It was well-marinated and fried to perfection to achieve the desired crispiness on the outside but still juicy within. This is one of the most sought-after dishes here as almost every of the customer ordered it. The Sambal Goreng was nice too, it comprises of french bean, fried beancurd and tempe, stir-fried with Sambal Chilli, the spiciness was rather mild. The Sambal Kangkong was not too bad as well.

The second plate consists of Curry Fish, Curry Vegetable, and Sambal Ladyfinger, a request was made for the tail part of the fish. The Curry Fish was nicely cooked and it retained a firm texture with a robust savory flavor, the spiciness of the curry was rather mild. The Curry Vegetable and Sambal Ladyfinger have a very homely taste.

We paid $11.20 for both plates. The best timing to be there would be before noon as most dishes would still available at that time and also to avoid the long queue. 

Block 150A Bishan Street 11 SINGAPORE 570150
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dynasty Ipoh Seafood : Fried Porridge and other interesting dishes

Dynasty Ipoh Seafood, formerly known as Royal J's Premium Taste is famous for their signature fried porridge, started by chef John Ng, the owner. It used to be a hawker stall at Macpherson before moving to a coffee shop at Foch Road in Jalan Besar. He then opened a shop in Bishan but closed it down after a little while then moved to this stall at the coffee shop just next to the shop. Apparently, the stall at Foch Road is still around there but under the charge of his cousin who is also from Ipoh but somehow both stalls are not related.

We were there during their soft launch for dinner. Fried Porridge is still one of their signature items on the menu together with some interesting Cze Cha dishes like Cheesy Prawn, Baby Lamb Chop and Crab Tang Hoon. We decided to go with Fried Porridge ($6), Penang -style Fried Hor Fun ($4) and also Signature Fried Garden Chicken ($12). 

The Fried Porridge came first. It is a common dish in Penang but hardly seems in Singapore though, this might just the only place serving such a dish. The cooked porridge is stir-fried in a wok over a relatively high fire using a ladle to keep tossing it in a fast motion repeatedly and quickly. It is then served in a claypot to keep warm. 

I first tasted in May 2016 when they were still at Foch Road. I was very impressed then but not so much this time. It just seemed something is missing, it just did not taste as good as it used to be. I could taste the diced yam, dried cuttlefish, dried shrimps and crispy lard bits in it though not too much flavor from the dried shrimps this time, it was garnished with fried shallots and a handful of chopped chives to serve. 

Signature Fried Garden Chicken came next. It was a fried chicken dish served with strips of fried ginger. A ginger lover, just like my dining companion, would have loved it and he actually finished eating all of those fried ginger strips that I did not like. Those pieces of chicken were fried well though certain pieces were a bit over-fried, it was basically alright though not too impressive. 

The Penang-style Fried Hor Fun was an absolute disappointment. That was clearly the name stated on their menu but no part of this dish resembled the Penang-style fried kway teow that I have tasted, though they called it hor fun, it was the same thin rice noodles that are usually used for the fried kway teow. It tasted just like the lousy version of a normal fried kway teow with no wok flavor. I even left a feedback on their Facebook page, telling them how bad this dish was. 

I wonder how would they compete against Ong Yong Lee Seafood,  the popular Cze Cha stall just next door that is known for its affordable and tasty dishes? 

Block 151 Bishan Street 11 #01-195 SINGAPORE 570151
Operating Hours: 8.30 am to 2.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Song Kee Fishball Noodle at Bishan

I received a comment on my post on Ong Yong Lee Seafood, it was mentioned that the Song Kee Fishball Noodle there is run by the Uncle of the other Song Kee Fishball Noodle at Tembling Road in Joo Chiat and they usually sold out at noon. I was there at about 12.30 pm on a Sunday and I was told that they have sold out. When I was about to walk off, the friendly Uncle said, "We left only meatballs. Do you want it?". I nodded. He asked, "$4 portion?" Again, I nodded. It was cooked by the younger guy. As it is self-service, I waited there for it to be ready. While waiting, I asked, "I was told that you are the Uncle of the other Song Kee at Joo Chiat?".  He nodded and said, "Sometimes, I was there to help out too."

I said, "There are many outlets of Song Kee but not all are as good. I did not particularly like that one at Serangoon." The Uncle replied, "We are not related. That one is from the same boss of the other Song Kee at Toa Payoh Lorong 5. They even announced on their Facebook page that they are not directly related to that particular outlet and also the new outlet at Thomson Plaza that is under the same boss.

Here, we are using the same recipe as the one at Joo Chiat. Everything is handmade right here."  I said, "I was a regular when they were still at Serangoon and I really love the fish dumplings. I did not go as often after they moved to Joo Chiat. But now, I can come here for fish dumplings instead." When I was taking pictures of the stall, the Auntie told me that their off day is on Friday. The younger guy said, "Then, it is better for you to come during weekends as we might not have it on weekdays and even if we do have it, it is usually run out before 10 am."

My dining companion tasted the meatball and he commented, "The taste is similar to the one from the other Song Kee at Joo Chiat." The meepok was cooked just right with the desired springiness and nicely coated with the tasty sambal chilli. Though simple but quite enjoyable. I will definitely come back for their fish dumplings soon. 

Block 151 Bishan Street 11 Ong Yong Lee Eating House SINGAPORE 570151
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 1.00 pm (Closed on Fridays)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice : Bib Gourmand Award

There are many Chicken Rice stalls in Singapore but this particular one at Tiong Bahru Food Centre is awarded Bib Gourmand by Michelin for 2016 and 2017. Cheong Weng Wah, 48, the owner, grew up in Tiong Bahru prior to starting his stall in 1988. He was only 20 years old then and just completed his National Service and he happened to know a friend that used to work as a cook at Chatterbox in Mandarin Hotel, cooking the legendary Hainanese Chicken Rice. This particular friend imparted the skills and given the recipe to him. He further improvised by experimenting and improved on the recipe. 

Other than the Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice ($3), there is also Roasted Chicken Rice ($3), Lemon Chicken Rice ($3) and side dishes like the Soya Sauce Vegetables ($3) and Bean Sprouts ($3) on their menu. I was there for a late lunch but there was just another customer right in front of me. I wanted the combination of blanched chicken and roasted chicken with a plate of rice for $5.00. 

The blanched chicken was smoother and juicier but the roasted chicken was more flavorful, both were equally good though I would prefer the roasted chicken a little more. It was served with a portion of salted vegetable, which is not quite common. Onion is added as the special ingredient to the rice apart of the usual garlic, ginger and spring onion, that making it different from the others. The texture of the rice was fluffy and not greasy. This might not be the best Chicken Rice that I have tasted but this is definitely above average.  Though, there were some negative reviews about this stall but I was honestly impressed with what I had eaten. 

There is also another outlet by the same name in Chinatown that is run by his elder brother and his other brother has another outlet at Changi Village. 

30 Seng Poh Road #02-82 Tiong Bahru Food Centre SINGAPORE 168898
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

96 Kwai Luck Cooked Food : serving Mee Siam for 38 years

This stall has been around for the longest time in this food centre since 1979 and I literally grew up eating their Mee Siam, the only item on their menu for just $2.50. It used to be for only $2.00 but even so, it is still cheap as compared to the other hawker fare and is good for breakfast or a light lunch. 

The Uncle has aged so much since my last visit, his hair has turned white and seemed to look much frail as compared to before. He is still manning the stall with his wife, a really friendly Auntie that is easy to talk with. I was there for a late lunch. I thought that they have already sold out as the stall looked rather empty. I asked the Uncle, "Any left?". He replied, "Yeah, but finishing soon." He continued to say, "We usually finished earlier during the weekends but a bit late today."

They serve the Chinese-style Mee Siam, a rather simple version with a strong emphasis on the gravy, which is sweeter and lighter with a tinge of sourness. It is served with a whole egg and stripes of tau pok with sambal chilli and a calamari lime. An additional egg and an extra portion of bee hoon are available for 0.50 cents each.  It is still the same comforting taste all these years though it seemed to be a little better before.

I could not help but wonder how much longer would they still be around? It has always been just the two of them manning the stall so I doubt their children would be interested to take over. It is likely to be just like the many of the other hawker stalls that are now, a part of the history and gone is also their decades' old recipe. 

Block 453A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-20 Chong Boon Food Centre SINGAPORE 560453
Operating Hours: 4.00 am to 2.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Angmo Food : Ang Mo food in Ang Mo Kio

This stall has an interesting name. "Ang Mo" is a local slang describing the Westerner, mainly in Singapore. It literally means "red-haired" and it originates from Hokkien. And so, "Ang Mo Food" actually means Western food which this stall is serving, including different types of rice bowls. There are Chicken Chop Rice Bowl ($4.90), Salmon Rice Bowl ($6.90) and Beef Rice Bowl ($6.90) with the option to top up $1 for mushroom soup. 

I got to know about them from a post on Facebook and decided to try it since it is in my hood. I went with a friend on a Sunday for lunch. We were told that only rice bowls are available and they only start serving the usual Western fare from about 6 pm onward. We decided to go with Chicken Chop Rice Bowl as well as Beef Rice Bowl and topped up $1 for the mushroom soup. A number tag was given after the payment and was told that they will ring the bell and call it out when the order is ready for collection. We were seated at a table a little too far from the stall and could not really hear it too clearly, I decided to go check at the stall after waited for a while.  Our order happened to be the next in line.

The chicken chop was cooked using the sous-vide method then pan-seared and served with raisin butter rice, asparagus, and an onsen egg with their house-made brown sauce. 

The chicken, though tender but was not too flavorful. I could not taste much of the butter flavor in the rice and the raisin did have much effect to enhance the flavor as well. The egg was also cooked using the sous-vide method but the yolk was not as runny as expected. We were supposed to break the yolk and mixed it with the rice. We did not like it. 

The Beef Rice Bowl consists of sliced beef cooked using the sous-vide method before pan-seared it to slightly charred the surface but still retained its moisture within. 

It is served atop of the raisin butter rice together with asparagus and an onsen egg with the same brown sauce that they served with their Chicken Chop Rice Bowl. 

I would say forget about topping with $1 for their mushroom soup, it tasted like those the canned mushroom soup and it did not quite worth the value. 

I felt that their emphasis is on the cooking technique but not too much on the flavor where they should work on to improve it.

Block 446 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 SINGAPORE 560446
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 9.00 pm (closed on alternate Mondays)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ong Yong Lee Seafood : the hidden gem

We stumbled upon this Cze Cha stall when going to the other coffee shop for dinner. Almost all their tables were take up during dinner. This prompted us to return the next day to check it out. We were there slightly after 7 pm and again, most of the tables were occupied and left just a big table. We went to sit at that table but was told to move to a smaller table, right at the corner. The elderly Uncle pointed to that table and said, "I will get you another chair." 

He then attempted to take our orders. I decided to go with their signature Double Treasure Dry Hor Fun, Salted Egg Chicken and Prawn Paste Chicken. Uncle said, "All chicken dishes?" which I replied, "We prefer to eat chicken." Uncle then said, "Then you should try the 麦芽鸡 (Maltose Chicken). I said, "We will try next time." Uncle replied, "We have it just for today and it is not on the menu." He continued to say, "It is a small chicken, just nice for 2 to share."  We decided to go with his recommendation then.

We waited for about 45 minutes before the first dish was served. It was delivered by the same Uncle to our table. Uncle apologetically said, "The waiting time is usually long during weekends. You will have to come early or come late to avoid such waiting time."

The Salted Egg Chicken came first. My dining companion enjoyed it, he said, "This is very nice particularly those pieces of thinly sliced deep-fried taro." Those pieces of fried chicken were evenly coated with salted egg sauce with bits of the salted egg on it. 

Next, it came the 麦芽鸡, the same Uncle delivered it. He said, "This is my recommendation. Have a try to see whether you like it or not". Then, he asked, "Any more dishes?" I said, "We are still waiting for the Double Treasure Dry Hor Fun." 

The 麦芽鸡 is actually tasted like the usual roasted chicken. The skin was paper thin and rather crispy with a slight sweetness derived from the marinade that is using malt sugar as its main ingredient. Though plainish, it was quite tasty and kind of special, we enjoyed it.

Apparently, the Double Treasure Dry Hor Fun did not come. I went to the counter for payment and I said, "The Double Treasure Dry Hor Fun did not serve. Can I have it take away?" The same Uncle overheard it, he asked, "So, you did not get the hor fun? I am so sorry about it." He then asked, "How was the 麦芽鸡?" He said, "You can eat Prawn Paste Chicken anytime but not this."I said, "It was very nice, a bit like the roasted chicken." Uncle said, "It is actually better than the normal roasted chicken", which I agreed. The total bill came to $33, which is much cheaper than we expected. 

All in all, the standard, which is, well, very impressive and I am eager to return for their other dishes. 

Block 151 Bishan Street 11 #01-207 Ong Yong Lee Eating House SINGAPORE 570151
Operating Hours: 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Shun Feng Crayfish Delight : standard is not consistent

Daniel, 39 and Willy, 38, started this hawker stall in April 2017 at a coffee shop near Khatib MRT station. Crystal Crayfish Delight at $6 and $10 is their signature item and it consists of dory fish, tofu and handmade meatballs.

I went back twice in a week. The first visit was on a weekday and the second one was a Saturday. On the second visit, I was informed that the $10 portion is not available when ordering. And so, if I want a bigger portion, I would have to order 2 of the $6 portion. It puzzled me as I could not see the logic behind this other than the motivation is kind of profit-minded and to possibly maximise the earnings during lunch on a Saturday when the queue was rather long. The long queue was likely caused by their slowness in cooking. The $10 portion was available during my first visit though and that was on a weekday at about 2 pm when there was just another customer right in front of me.

The standard is not quite consistent as well, the soup was better the first time that I tried but it was kind of diluted on the second visit. The crayfish did not taste too fresh when I came to take away the first time, the meat was a bit too mushy and soft but it fared much better during the second visit, the meat was firmer this time.

Those meatballs are handmade with a mix of dried sole fish and sliced mushroom for a distinct flavor. The stock is made of the old mother hen, chicken feet, pork bones and other secret ingredients then boiled for about 4 hours till it is milky white. 

You could choose to have it with rice or horfun. The horfun  is actually thin rice noodles tossed in dark soya sauce then served with fried shallots. I would think rice is a better option as the horfun did not go too well with the seafood soup.

Overall, it was not bad but its standard is still far from Yan Ji Seafood Soup at Woodlands Centre Road Food Centre, which is still the best. 

Block 848 Yishun Street 81 SINGAPORE 760848
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 12.00 am (Daily)