Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mei Meng Taiwan Delicacy : the first 大肠包小肠 in Singapore

Zen Tan, 30s, the owner, started this stall in January 2018. I was the only customer when I went for early lunch. Zen seated at the table in front of his stall and stood up immediately when he saw me. I asked, "Are you a Taiwanese?", which he replied, "No." That is quite obvious actually as he does not speak with the Taiwanese accent. There are currently only 2 items on the menu, 卤肉饭 ($3.80), humble Braised Pork Rice, and 大肠包小肠 ($6.60), a popular street snack. I decided to try both. I have been a big fan of the Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice and it got me really excited when I got to know about this stall in Ang Mo Kio, they are located in a coffee shop near Mayflower Food Centre. 

Zen was telling me that he is in the midst of launching some braised items. He said, "These braised items are just like those that can be found at the night markets throughout Taiwan." He mentioned that he tried the 卤肉饭 at Macpherson and in AMK Hub before starting this stall. He said, "An elderly couple at Tainan taught me how to cook 卤肉饭." I asked, "What were you doing before starting this stall?" He said, "I was in the construction industry." He continued to say, "My friends were surprised when I decided to set up this stall as they did not expect it."

While eating, he came over and asked, "How was it?" I replied, "It is not saltish enough." He said, "I adjusted the level of saltiness a little as most of the customers find it to be too salty." I also mentioned that the rice was a bit too mushy. He said, "I am already using good quality rice and if I go any better then I would be left with little benefits." It is a common challenge amongst the hawkers to stay competitive by keeping the costs low. 

I said, "It would be nice if there is more flavor from fried shallots." He shared that the elderly couple was really patient when they taught him how to fry the shallots. I mentioned, "There is a popular stall at Seah Im Food Centre serving 卤肉饭. I think you should give it a try as their 卤肉饭 is the closest to what I had eaten in Taiwan."

When preparing the 大肠包小肠, he said, "You would not be able to get this in Singapore other than here. I handmade those glutinous rice rolls and it is very time-consuming. I have to be here as early as 6 am to get it going."  He asked whether I want to have it cut into smaller pieces. I replied, "No. I am taking pictures." He made an effort to wrap it nicely in the wrapper before handed it to me. 

I only tried 大肠包小肠 once at Feng Jia Night Market in Taichung but it was not quite memorable. I mentioned to Zen that the price seemed a bit on the high side. The grilled glutinous rice roll was sliced at the centre, it was topped with ground peanuts, salted vegetable, shredded carrot and slices of cucumber before placing the grilled Taiwanese-style hot dog on it then garnished with coriander. You could choose to have it plain, or with sauces. As mentioned by Zen, this is likely to be the only one that you could get in Singapore. 

Zen is still in the midst of perfecting the taste for both items. We should give him more time to work on that. Nonetheless, it is heartening to see a new hawker in doing his part to preserving our hawker culture.

Block 159 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 SINGAPORE 560159
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Daily)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Master Chicken : not bad but not quite the master yet

I visited for the first time when the stall was still at Old Airport Road Food Centre, it was known as Chuan Yit Lai Hainanese Chicken Rice at that time. It was changed to Master Chicken after moving to Kim Keat Palm Food Centre in April 2015. I visited once at that time and the third time was about a month ago. This stall was recently featured in the newest series of "Buzzing Hawker", under the mentorship of chef Robin Ho, which took place in August 2017. They have started to use the new recipe since then. 

Jason, the owner, was not there when I visited last month. I chatted with the friendly assistant and he confirmed that they have started using the recipe by chef Robin Ho. I ordered a quarter chicken with a plate of rice for $7 if I remember correctly. 

There was actually a queue at their stall when they just moved to this food centre but it somehow die-off. We took notice of the new "Dong Feng Fa Hainanese Chicken Rice" stall just a couple of stalls away and we speculated that is the likely reason. Jason used to be working for them before starting his own stall. I could imagine the similarity in the taste and the latter is a familiar name in Hainanese Chicken Rice and so, Master Chicken is somewhat losing out. 

After watching the episode of Buzzing Hawker that featured the stall, I wonder what is the possibility of them falling back on using the old recipe? That could possibly be the reason why we could not tell apart? I could not quite taste the difference and I would not have suspected it is a new recipe if it is not for their new signboard with the "Buzzing Hawker" on it. 

The ginger paste is supposed to be a new recipe but my dining companion did not actually find it to be impressive. The chicken was moist, tender and smooth. The rice was fragrant, grainy and not too greasy, a slight hard though. The level of spiciness for the chili was quite manageable with a hint of tanginess. Overall, it was not bad actually though not amongst the best yet. 

Block 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7 #01-18 Kim Keat Palm Food Centre SINGAPORE 310022
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Mon to Sat) / 9.00 am to 3.00 pm (Sun) (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kakak Kentang : giant fried potato ball

Started by the Dapur Ummi Abdullah Dining Group headed by Chef Ummi in November 2017, this stall at FOMO, serving jumbo fried mashed potato balls. This is the most popular stall in this latest hipster food court at Sultan Gate, in the heart of Kampung Glam. 

There are 2 choices, Bombistik and Chikabom, the regular-sized at $6.90 and the large-sized at $9.90. The Bombistik is stuffed with minced beef in tomato bistik gravy and Chikabom is filled with minced chicken, served with chicken soup soto gravy. They are also serving snacks like Abang Popiah for $2 and if you get 3, it will be only for $5, there is also Adik Char Kuay for $5.90.

When ordering, I asked, pointing at the pictures of Bombistik and Chikabom just beside the counter, "Which one would you recommend?" The lady at the counter, replied, "Both are nice." I then decided to go with Chikabom but could not quite make up my mind whether to go for the regular-sized or the large-sized. There was another customer collecting her order. I pointed to her bowls and asked, "This is regular-sized or large-sized?", the same lady replied, "That's regular.". And, I said, "Regular-sized for me then, the large one is a bit too much." I was told to just wait at the counter as I was the only customer at that time as they were already in the midst of preparing the order. While waiting, I took notice of the sample on display to show the actual size of the potato balls. 

My order was ready in few minutes. Chikabom is actually the upgraded version of bergedil, a Malay-style fried potato patty, in a bigger size and served in chicken soup soto gravy topped with shredded carrot and radish with dried shallots. The fried potato ball turned soggy rather quickly after soaked in the gravy for a while. 

It tasted just like the usual bergedil, that is available at those Malay stalls, to go with Mee Siam or Mee Rebus, or as part of the selection for Nasi Padang, at a smaller size and cheaper in price. 

38 Sultan Gate FOMO Singapore 198486
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Mon to Thu) / 3.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Fri)
12.00 pm to 12.00 am (Sat & Sun)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fatty Thai : Thai Wanton Mee

Edmund, Darryll and Wei Zhe, are the owners of this stall and all of them are 22 years old. They met during their school days and decided to start this stall after their national service in this coffee shop along Beach Road. Almost everything is handmade including their char siew which is done in-house based on a recipe that they obtained online.

I ordered Ba Mee Kiao Moo Dang, the Thai style wanton mee, the smallest portion is at $3, followed by $4 and $5. Another item on their menu is Khao Ka Moo at $5 and $7, rice is 0.50 cents per portion. When I was asked whether to go chili, I replied, "How spicy is it?". Edmund replied, "Very spicy. I will just add a little and leave it by the side."

Edmund was in-charge of cooking, assisted by Wei Zhe and Darryll was taking the orders. Though it is stated as "self-service", Darryll offered to serve it to our table.

The smallest portion that I ordered came with a good portion of noodles with slices of char siew and some green, garnished with dried chili flakes and preserved green chili.

Their wantons tasted a bit different, there was a distinct sourish taste and got my dining companion to wonder what it is. I suspected it might be caused by adding in lemongrass as part of the ingredients, which is common for making Thai style wantons. 

There was a strong flavor of lard oil, other than the usual fish sauce and sugar as the base. It is different from the regular wanton mee as it is much drier with no sauce. The noodles were thinner and rather springy. The lards were not as crunchy and fragrant as expected though. 

What left an impression was their friendly service. If I am going to compare this with the popular Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee, I would still think the latter fared a bit better. 

341 Beach Road Lim Si Mi Cafe SINGAPORE 199567
Operating Hours: 9.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Local Delights : my favorite Fried Prawn Fritter

I have been patronising this stall quite regularly ever since there is a new bus service to travel from Ang Mo Kio to Yishun. I am such a regular until a particular auntie is able to recognize me and often, she will freshly made those prawn fritters for me, the only item that I have been ordering. Each prawn fritter is reasonably priced at 0.90 cents. There are other snacks like the fried yam cake, glutinous rice cake, dumpling, chee cheong fun and even chwee kway available, too. If you are there for prawn fritter, please go before 3 pm as it will usually be sold out by then or earlier.

This stall has been in this coffee shop for the longest time. My first visit was about 5 years ago and they happened to open a stall in Ang Mo Kio shortly after that but it was only there for about a year or so. I happened to meet the lady boss once and we talked about it. She said the reason for closing down was the unreasonably raise in the rental.

Prawn fritter is not as commonly available as before though you could still find them at those stalls serving traditional snacks or at the Ngor Hiang Guan Qiang stalls, but most of these are pre-made. This one is better, it is made in batches to ensure its crispiness, it has also added bean sprouts for a softer texture and not as thick. When you ordered to have it there, the auntie will cut it into smaller pieces and served it on the plate with the chili by the side.

I was told there is another outlet in another part of Yishun, somewhere in Khatib and not too far from the MRT station.

414 Yishun Ring Road Broadway Coffeeshop SINGAPORE 760414
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 5.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Noods & Meats : a Muslim-owned Western food stall at Yishun

This is a Muslim-owned Western food stall located in the coffee shop near Yishun Park Hawker Centre, it started by Chef Fidauz Nasir, a former Executive Chef of Arteastiq on 17 December 2017. They are specialized in handmade noodles and in-house smoked meats. 

We were there on a Sunday for lunch. Their menu is pretty extensive but some of the items were sold out, including the Bebek Meat listed as item A9 on their menu for $12.90, it is a duck confit served in their secret sauce with sous vide egg and vegetables that we wanted to order. We decided to go with item A11, listed as Chope Chicken for $10.90, it is a Chicken Leg Confit served with coleslaw, beans stew and sunny side up egg. I was given a choice to choose between the butter rice, fries, mashed potato and potato salad as a side dish but potato salad was not available then. We also went ahead to select item B1, listed as Burnt End for $6.90, it consists of in-house Beef Brisket that was smoked for 12 hours with their secret sauce and Thai asparagus. Every bun dish is served with french fries. 

After done with ordering and payment, I was told that they will call the number on the receipt when it is ready for collection. We were expected to hang around there as the coffee shop was quite crowded on a Sunday and there was quite a high chance that we might miss it if we seated too far. When it was ready, the assistant shouted really loud and shouted it twice. We collected both dishes at the same time. 

Burnt End, is none other than a pile of beef brisket served in a sweet bun and with Thai asparagus. The beef brisket was smoked in-house for a relatively long 12 hours. Every bun dish is served with french fries, it was quite a big pile of shoestring fries. Their secret "shiok" sauce did not taste as impressive as we expected it to be.

The presentation was indeed messy thus, not too appealing. My dining companion thought it actually tasted better than its look. The beef brisket was nicely flavored and it would be nicer if it is more tender. The bun was situated in a pool of sauce and its base turned slightly soggy. It was quite nice, as commented by my dining companion, in fact, it is the better one amongst the 2 dishes. 

Chope Chicken, not a whole chicken leg was used but the boneless one. It was suspected not done in confit method as described on their menu but grilled. What is confit? It is a method of cooking food in its own fat, oil or a water syrup at a low temperature, which is likely not in this case. It was confusing and misleading as well, it should be just called a grilled chicken chop and by calling it Chope Chicken, it did not quite make sense too. When googled for the meaning of "chope", it refers to reserve a place, such as a seat, sometimes by placing a packet of tissue paper on it. 

A sunny side up was placed on top of the chicken, accompanied by the coleslaw, mashed potato with a mixture of baked beans and green peas. After tasting it, my dining companion was saying he prefers the chicken chop served at the western food stall in Yishun Park Hawker Centre just a stone's throw away. He commented that the chicken, though nicely cooked but was a bit too thick, mildly flavored and with soggy skin. The mashed potato did not have much taste and the coleslaw was not as good too, it is also more expensive. The dish was garnished with chopped spring onions and some crispy bits, its presentation was quite messy.  

They are only in operation for about a month and perhaps, give it a bit more time and they will get better. 

414 Yishun Ring Road Broadway Coffeeshop SINGAPORE 760414
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 8.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hai Kee Soya Sauce Chicken : impressively good

There are many noteworthy Soya Sauce Chicken, some of the popular choices are Fragrant Soya Sauce Chicken and Fatty Ox Hong Kong Kitchen at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Chiew Kee and Chew Kee at Upper Cross Street and Lee Fun Nam Kee at Toa Payoh Lorong 4.

Hai Kee Soya Sauce Chicken is another established brand for Soya Sauce Chicken. It was first started by Mr Wong Si Han in 1959 at Upper Cross Street before relocating to Katong in 2000 when Mr Wang Kia Jeck took over the business. The business expanded to include 8 outlets islandwide but it started to decline during the bird flu epidemic, it started to shut down one after another and finally ended it. They reopened in 2010 at Eunos Crescent and then another one in Changi in 2013 followed by the one in East Coast Road in 2015.

Joseph Wang, decided to take over the family business when he was 21, right after completing his National Service and is currently working along with James Wang, his brother. Now, they left with the stall at Changi but opened a new one at Bedok North, manned by James and Mr Wang Kia Jeck, their father. Their menu is broadened to include roasted pork and char siew. 

The well-marinated Soya Sauce Chicken was tender and smooth with a light fragrance of the soy sauce, it went well with the accompanying chili sauce and the coarse ginger paste. The texture of the rice was grainy, fragrant and not overly oily. My dining companion prefers the one from Lee Fun Nam Kee to this though. 

This might not be the best Soya Sauce Chicken but it is definitely much better than Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice Noodle that has been awarded Michelin star but failed to live up to the hype. 

Block 217 Bedok North Street 1 Food Loft Coffeeshop SINGAPORE 460217
Operating Hours: 9.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on alternate Tuesdays)

324T Changi Road Kim San Leng Coffeeshop SINGAPORE 419799
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 6.30 pm (Closed on Fridays)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Song Zhou Fried Carrot Cake : it used to be better

This was my second visit to this new food centre at the Bedok Interchange that replaced the demolished one. It was unexpectedly crowded at about 2.30 pm on a weekday with most tables occupied at that time. My all time favorite stall in this food centre has to be Song Zhou Fried Carrot Cake. I used to like it so much that I would travel from Ang Mo Kio just for it. I tried it once after they moved to this food centre and it was still good then, that was more than a year ago. 

The choices on the menu include the $3.00 portion, the $3.50 with extra egg added, also the $4.00 with prawn and $5.00  with prawn as well as squid. I decided to go with the black version at $3.50. There was just another customer in front of me when ordering. I was asked whether to have it with chili and before deciding, I asked, "How spicy is the chili?". The young man looked up while cooking, he said, "It is quite spicy." I decided to go without it since my dining companion has little tolerance towards spiciness. The young chap handed the plate to me when it was done and he remembered that I mentioned it was to be shared with a friend so 2 forks were given. Such thoughtfulness is much appreciated. 

I was excited when I had the first mouthful but it left me feeling disappointed as it just did not taste as good this time. It used to be fried by an elderly Uncle when they were at the old food centre and perhaps that explained why there is a difference in taste. It did not have enough sweet dark sauce added to give it the sweet-savory flavor that a good black carrot cake should have. There was also not much garlic and preserved radish (chye poh) flavor, though the amount of egg was quite generous. Though they are no longer making the carrot cake, its texture was still noticeably soft. 

It used to be amongst the best but not so now. I would prefer the black carrot cake by Hua Li Fried Carrot Cake at the newly opened Marsiling Mall Food Centre that I just had quite recently. 

207 New Upper Changi Road #01-37 Bedok Interchange Food Centre SINGAPORE 460207
Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Aspirasi : Fried Chicken Rice

This is one of the oldest stalls that has been in this food centre for quite a while, a Muslim-owned stall that serves Fried Chicken Rice. There are the normal Chicken Rice ($3.50), Sambal Chicken Rice ($4.00), Sweet & Sour Chicken Rice ($4.00), Lemon Chicken Rice ($4.00), Black & Pepper Chicken Rice ($4.00), Penyet Chicken Rice ($5.00), Fried Rice with Chicken ($5.00) and Tomato Fried Rice with Sambal Chicken ($5.50). There are various choices to choose from, something for everyone on the menu. 

I decided to go with the Penyet Chicken Rice. The fried chicken came nicely smashed-up, accompanied by a pile of raw shredded cabbage topped with sambal chili, a slice of cucumber and a cherry tomato, together with a bowl of soup. The well-seasoned chicken was nicely fried to have the delightful crispiness, it was flavorful to eat it without the chili. The spiciness of the chilli can be quite intimidating so go easy.

2 Seah Im Road #01-45 Seah Im Food Centre SINGAPORE 099114
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

137 Lor Mee Prawn Mee : with fried fish nuggets

There was no queue when I was there for Lor Mee. Apparently, they serve only Lor Mee though it is indicated on their signboard that they do serve Prawn Mee as well. I have to decide between the $3 and the $4 portion. When it was my turn to order, I said, "I want it with extra fried fish nuggets." The Uncle looked up while cooking and said, "Then, it is the $4 one."

It consists of a good portion of the flat yellow noodles with ingredients like braised pork belly, ngor hiang, fish cake and half of a braised egg with fried fish nuggets, garnished with chopped coriander, garlic paste, and red cut chili. To start, give it a good mix. The braised sauce was not as sticky as I liked it to be, it was much lighter though still quite flavorful. The fried fish nuggets still retained its crispiness and did not turn soggy even after soaked in the sauce. 

Though this is not amongst the best Lor Mee that I had eaten but it is quite satisfying, a definitely must-try if you happen to be in this food centre for lunch. 

137A Tampines Street 11 #01-09 Tampines Round Market Food Centre SINGAPORE 522137
Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 2.00 pm

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kim Heng (HK) Roasted Delights : not as good as before

This stall is nicely tucked away in a cluster of HDB blocks, along Serangoon Avenue 4 and is directly opposite Serangoon Stadium. They have been around for more than 2 decades serving roast duck, roast pork, and char siew. It was quite memorable when I tasted it in 2012 and I have been wanting to come back all this while. I did when I went to collect the Christmas cookies at Plain Jane Cafe there. It was during lunch and a short queue was formed but it moved rather quickly though. I decided to go with the Char Siew and Sio Bak rice at $4.80, which is more expensive than most of the others. I also ordered Salted Vegetable Duck Soup for $2.50.  

During my last visit, the char siew had a good amount of fat with nicely charred edges and was flavorful. It was disappointing this time, it was very lean and slightly dry, not as flavorful, too. The crispy skin on the sio bak was quite good and the well-seasoned meat was tender. 

The Salted Vegetable Duck Soup came with chunks of tomato, salted vegetable and chopped pieces of duck wing. There was a slight sourish taste and quite flavorful but I remember it used to be better. 

Block 214 Serangoon Avenue 4 #01-188 SINGAPORE 550214
Operating Hours: 8.30 am to 7.00 pm (Daily)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Yuan Ji Traditional Handmade Noodle at Yishun Park Hawker Centre

This was one of those stalls that were opened on a Monday and I decided to try it due to limited choices. The hawker centre was rather empty during lunch. 

I did not go for their signature beetroot and pumpkin noodles but their Soup Ban Mian at $3.80, the dry version is available at $4.50. I was their only customer at that time so I did not have to wait too long for it to be ready. It was served with a good portion of handmade ban mian with meatballs, sliced mushroom, vegetable and ikan belis. This was a comforting choice though not the best that I ever tasted. 

51 Yishun Avenue 11 #01-18 Yishun Park Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 768867
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 9.30 pm (Daily)