Monday, November 12, 2018

Meixi's Kitchen : Hakka Yong Tau Fu

This is a new stall opened in the recently renovated coffee shop just beside the food centre, serving handmade Hakka Yong Tau Fu. 

The standard order is 6 items with noodle or rice at $4.20 and at $5.00 if go with the laksa gravy. They will deep-fry the items again and serve it on a separate bowl if you order the soup and laksa version. The handmade items tasted relatively fresh and my all time favorite has to be the stuffed brinjal, meatball, ngor hiang and stuffed tofu. 

The condiments are available at the counter for self-service. There is also a pot of soya beans for you to add into your soup. 

This brand has been around since 1986 and they have a few outlets islandwide.

Block 630 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-972 SINGAPORE 560630
Operating Hours: 7.45 am to 9.00 pm (Daily)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

[JAPAN] A Foodie's Guide to Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, it is the world's most populous metropolis and it offers seemingly unlimited choices of dining to its visitors. It has almost everything that is expected of a city and it has more Michelin-starred eateries than any other city as well. I am in love with this city and these are some of the best eats during my trips. 

2 Chome-12-22 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to 110-0005, Japan
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 10.00 pm (Daily)

This 260 years old restaurant is just a stone's throw away from the Ueno train station. They are still using the traditional methods of cooking eels that have been passed down for generations. Please ask for an English menu if you have difficulties in ordering.

Himeijyu, literally means 'Princess Box' which consists of a two-tiered bowl, the top layer is filled with various veggies and seafood as an appetizer and the bottom layer is unagi with rice, served with a Kimosui (eel liver soup) and a dish of Japanese pickles. The set is priced at ¥3,780.

Tonojyu, which means 'Prince Box', consists of 2 layers of unagi and rice, a layer on top of another layer and it also served along with kimosui and Japanese pickles at ¥6480.

2-9-9 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Mon to Fri) / 11.30 am to 3.30 pm / 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Sat, Sun & PH)

This Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated eatery is specialized in Anago Chirashi, it is quite a rare find in Tokyo as most of them are specialized in serving unagi. Their main outlet in Nihonbashi, located in an old Showa building that has a long history dated back to Showa 28 (1953). Hakomeshi is a must try if you are here, Hakomeshi is a term coined by Tamai to describe the style of eating their anago in the traditional Japanese lacquered boxes, which in the 1600s, were tiered into 3 to 5 layers as a convenient way to store and transport food. There are 3 different sizes, the small one at ¥1,750, the medium one at ¥2,950 and the large one at ¥3, 950. 

Do not eat it all but left a quarter for the chazuke, a Japanese dish made by pouring the dashi (broth) over cooked rice. This is done by placing the cooked rice and anago into the small bowl then pour the hot anago dashi over it. You may also sprinkle the remaining negi and yuzu to flavor it. 

To experience Tamai's Hakomeshi, first is to choose the type of anago, there is a choice of simmered in sweet sauce or cooked on the grill, you could also choose to have both, it is serving on rice. To start, have a few bites in the original flavor to experience the fresh and seasonal anago. Then, for a change in flavor, add a touch of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) for a spicy mustard taste. Next, try to sprinkle with some Japanese spices, like 'negi' (leeks) for a mild onion flavor and 'yuzu' for a fresh citric flavor.

1-5-4 Kyobashi Chuo-ku Tokyo 10-0031
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.00 pm / 4.30 pm to 9.00 pm (Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays)

Opened in 1921, they are specializing in yakitori using selected quality ingredients. It has maintains the same high standard all these years. The five-skewer yakitori-don at ¥1,850 during lunch is strongly recommended. It consists of a variety of different chicken parts like the liver and lean Sasami breast, featuring different flavors and textures. 

1-32-11 Tadadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.00 pm / 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Closed on Thur & Sun)

It is recommended on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list. There is always a queue and it is usually long, it extends from the basement stairway to street level mostly. There are 2 main types of pork for selection, there is Rosu (loin) and the other is Hire (fillet). Loin has more fats in the meat, it is usually more tender than the fillet. 

There are different types of tonkatsu, Kiramugi at 190 grams for ¥3200 is amongst the popular choices, using the Aguu breed pork from Okinawa. Another recommended item would be Snow-aged Pork at the same weight and price from Niigata. The orders are served with shredded cabbage, potato salad, Japanese pickles and a bowl of miso soup. Their tonkatsu, arguably, amongst the best in Tokyo. 

3-32-2 Shinjuku, B1F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo, Japan
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm

Gyukatsu, a deep-fried breaded beef cutlet is as popular as the other Japanese cuisines that you got to try. It is like Tonkatsu but not quite so. This is arguably the most popular restaurant in Tokyo for serving this dish. There are a few outlets in Tokyo and the queues are usually quite long no matter which outlet, it is so even during the odd hours. The menu is quite simple, the only item there is gyukatsu at different sizes, starting from 100 grams (¥1,200) 130 grams (¥1,400) and 260 grams (¥2,100).  There is an option to have it with grated yam for an additional ¥100 and it is supposed to drizzle over the rice. 

The sliced beef is served rare but you could cook it to your preferred doneness using the small grill. It is served along with a pile of cabbage, barley rice, potato salad, pickles, and miso soup. There are also condiments available on every table to go with the gyukatsu. 

2 151 0053, 2 Chome-20-16 Yoyogi Shibuya Tokyo 151-0053 Japan
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 10.00 pm (Mon to Thu & Sun) / 11.00 am to 11.00 pm (Fri & Sat)

This is a restaurant specializing in Udon, just a stone's throw away from Shinjuku station, close to the popular Fu-unji ramen. They have been consistently ranked amongst the best udon restaurants since their opening in April 2011.

Their menu has simple descriptions in English. The price range is in between ¥1,000 to ¥1,300 per dish. There is a selection of Zaru Udon, Kake Udon and Bukkake Udon. Zaru Udon is boiled and served cold with the dipping sauce served separately, its texture is springier with a richer flavor. Kake Udon is boiled and served in a lighter taste hot broth, its texture is smoother as compared to the Kake Udon. The Bukkake Udon is boiled then served with a bit of broth, its texture is in between Zaru Udon and Kake Udon. The recommended dish to try is Kake Udon with tempura set at ¥1,300. 

2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, 151-0053 Tokyo, Japan
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Mon to Sat)

This is a small shop hidden on a quiet street near Shinjuku Station and not too far from Shin Udon. They serve one of the best bowls of tsukemen in Tokyo. And, there is always a queue. You will order from the vending machine and wait further. There are 2 types of ramen and 2 types of tsukemen, the regular and the special option, and the special options included an egg and pork belly. Tsukemen is recommended as this is what they are known for. Deluxe Tsukemen, which also known as Special Dipping Noodle is priced at ¥1000, it is the same price for the portion size of noodles from small to the large serving.

The flavors and textures nicely complemented each other for a perfect balance. There was nori, pork belly, bamboo shoots and a soft-boiled egg in the broth with dashi powder. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Indulge : not bad, not good

This Western food stall has been in this coffee shop since January replacing the Aston Express. Their menu includes the usual Western dishes together with fusion rice and soba bowls. I decided to have the Chicken Chop Burger ($8.00). The order taker recommended that I should add an egg for $1.00. He said, "Very Nice." He also asked, "What sauce do you choose? BBQ, Teriyaki, Mushroom?" I decided to go with the BBQ sauce. My dining companion wanted Chicken Cutlet ($6.50) with salted egg sauce, the other choice is nachos cheese. Each dish is accompanied with 2 choices of side dishes from the selection of fries, coleslaw, and salad. We decided to go with the fries and coleslaw as I was told that are the default choices. We were given a buzzer for collection after payment at the kitchen window. 

The Chicken Cutlet that was served with salted egg sauce is quite a disappointment.  The salted egg sauce was quite diluted with little to none salted egg flavor. The chicken cutlet was not too big in size and it was rather bland. My dining companion, said, "It is not bad but not good either, just mediocre. The fries were just normal but the tiny scoop of coleslaw was nice."

My Chicken Chop Burger did not fare too well, too. I could only taste the BBQ sauce as the chicken chop did not have much flavor with a soggy skin, serving on a piece of lettuce and a slice of tomato.  The fully cooked fried egg did not actually enhance the flavor nor the texture of the burger. 

My dining companion said, "Maybe We should have ordered the rice or soba bowls, it might taste better." While walking out of the coffee shop, we spotted a few bowls of unfinished rice and soba noodles left on the table. He said, "Luckily, we did not order those." 

236 Upper Thomson Road Red House Kopitiam SINGAPORE 574367
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 10.30 pm (Sun to Thur) / 11.00 am to 12.30 am (Fri & Sat)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Mr Lorbak at Hougang

William Liou, 31, the owner, first started it in a coffee shop in early 2017 at Bedok North before moving to Ubi Avenue 1. He subsequently started another stall at Hougang Street 21. He has also recently started House of Happiness, a stall in a coffee shop along Bedok Road serving claypot rice. Willaim used to be a Group General Manager of a restaurant and he has a diploma from SHATEC. He was inspired by his mother as she used to run a rojak stall in Tampines. He is using a recipe from his mother. 

We went to the stall at Hougang for dinner. This stall is not just selling Lor Bak Rice ($4.50), also known as Braised Soya Sauce Pork Rice but also Braised Pig's Trotter ($7.00), Braised Chicken Wing Rice ($4.50), Minced Pork Porridge ($3.50), Minced Pork Pau ($2.50), Oyster Vegetable ($1.50) and Side Dish Combo ($2.00) consisting braised mushroom, tau pok, braised peanuts and preserved vegetable. We decided to go with Braised Chicken Wings Rice and Braised Soya Sauce Pork Rice together with a Side Dish Combo. The friendly auntie that took my order, asked, "Do you want Oyster Vegetable? the vegetable is very nice today." And, She said, "I do not have enough black fungus so I will be giving you more pieces of braised mushroom."

The Braised Chicken Wing Rice consists of 2 pieces of chicken wings, braised mushroom, braised egg, and black fungus placed on a pile of white rice drizzled with braising sauce. My dining companion, said, "It is not as flavorful as its look."

The Braised Pork Rice consists of a piece of braised meat that was cut in a few piece, a hard-boiled egg, braised mushroom, and black fungus. My dining companion said, "This is better than the braised chicken wings." I have tried when the stall was manned by William at Ubi Avenue. Somehow, it was much better than. 

The only item that I liked of the Side Dish Combo was the braised mushroom, the rest tasted just mediocre. 

Though not the best, this simple taste is homely and comforting.

Block 212 Hougang Street 21 #01-349 SINGAPORE 530212
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Teoh Kee (Charcoal) Roast at Toa Payoh

I was there on a Friday during lunch. This stall caught my attention so I thought I should give it a try. There was no other customer at that time. I actually wanted roasted duck with roasted meat and char siew but auntie missed out the char siew and I paid $5 for that. I also ordered a Pork Ribs with Lotus Root and Peanuts Soup for $3.50. I was asked to have the chilli by the side as I am going to share it with my dining companion and he does not take chilli. Auntie offered to give me another plate so it is easier to share.

A good portion of roasted duck and roasted meat were placed on the rice, drizzled with the braising sauce and the dark sauce. My dining companion commented that it was not bad. I did not actually find it to be memorable though as it tasted just average. 

The pork ribs were quite tough and the soup tasted rather bland. 

Block 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-45 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre SINGAPORE 310210

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball at Toa Payoh

Mr Hoo, 72, took over the stall from his father-in-law about 60 years ago. This is one of the 2 stalls that are still serving chicken rice balls. It is located at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, right next to Braddell MRT. The other stall is Hainan Chicken Rice Ball located in a coffee shop along Dickson Road in Jalan Besar. There used to be around 10 stalls serving chicken rice balls along Jalan Besar. Mr Hoo and his wife are both Hainanese and their stall has been around for about 80 years. They were at Jalan Besar before moving to the current location for more than 30 years now and they are still using traditional cooking methods. The stall is named "Good Year" to symbolize "more good years." Traditional rice balls still serve to preserve the Hainanese culture and its authentic taste.

I was there at about 11.30 am on a weekday and there was no other customer at the stall. The lady boss was there to take my order. I asked, "Can I have the mix of white and roasted chicken with the rice balls?" She said, "Can. Do you want bean sprouts?" I nodded my head and asked, "Should be able to finish, right?" She just smiled. If I remember correctly, I paid $6.50 for everything. The condiments are available at the counter for self-service. I only took a saucer of chilli. It was ready in a bit and placed on the tray. 

I was served breast meat for both, it was tender and quite moist. The white chicken is a slightly better choice as it was more flavorful. 

The stir-fried bean sprouts was a good choice. There was a big plate of it on the shelf. The lady boss just scooped it from there and served on the plate before placing it on the tray.

The chicken rice balls are often eaten during special occasions like Lunar New Year, Qing Ming and birthdays. It is known as "Fan Zhen" (饭珍) in Hainanese, which represents family reunion. It is cook over a controlled fire with ingredients like chicken stock, ginger, pandan leaves. The rice ball is mold using hot rice into a round ball at about 120 grams, about the size of a tennis ball and using the combination of young rice and old rice for the texture and bounciness. They are still doing it by hand as the machine is not able to press the balls tight enough using a recipe that has been handed down from the first generation.

The traditional method of enjoying the rice ball is to eat it with hands as it is supposed to taste better. The rice balls were densely molded, the rice grains were partially mashed and it had a rather mild taste of the chicken broth, it did not crumble even when biting upon. It was moist and not greasy. They also serve the rice on the plates.

The chilli, as well as ginger paste, are still handmade. The texture of chilli is slightly runny to go better with the rice balls, the level of spiciness is rather mild with a hint of ginger.

The flavorful soup is served with groundnuts and chicken feet. 

It is delighted to see this elderly couple still have so much love for serving this authentic Hainanese dish and wanting to preserve the culture. 

Block 111 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-366 Chang Cheng Mei Wah Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 310111
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 7.30 pm (Closed on Fridays)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lau San Kway Chap . Pig's Organ Soup : the best in Ang Mo Kio

Some say this is the best Kway Chap in Ang Mo Kio. It is located in the coffee shop same row as the famous Melben Seafood. The stall is manned by 老三 and his elder brother, 老二 on shifts. It is not too crowded even during lunch on weekdays. The queue is usually longer on weekends and it is also much crowded. Other than Kway Chap, there are also Braised Pork Knuckle and Pig's Organ Soup to go with rice. 

My usual order consists of a plate of mixed pork innards, braised egg and tau pok with an addition of small and big intestines together with a big bowl of broad rice noodles, known as kway. All the innards were nicely cleaned and there is no unpleasant flavor nor off-putting smell are detected. Small intestines are my favorite, it was cooked to the desired tenderness and braised to perfection. The braising sauce has a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness. 

The smooth and slippery broad rice noodles were served in lightly flavored broth topped with fried shallots and chopped coriander. 

This is definitely one of the better kway chap that I have tasted and it is probably the best in Ang Mo Kio as I have yet to taste a better one in this area.

Block 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 #01-1222 SINGAPORE 560232
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Thursdays)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Pandan Leaf Nasi Lemak : cheap & good

I started eating at this stall more than a decade ago. They used to be at the 2nd row before moving to the current location. The auntie used to recognize me but I have not been there for too long so she did not manage to do so this time. This is one of the oldest stalls in this food centre.

I was there at about 11 pm and there were just another 2 customers in front of me. The queue is usually much longer if come during lunch. One of the customers in front took away many packets of Nasi Lemak, nicely packed in a big plastic bag. When it was my turn to order, I told the auntie that I want it with a fried chicken drumstick. She asked, "$3 or $4?" I went with the $4. She asked, "Do you want the fish? Do you want it with chilli or non-chilli?" I wanted it with chilli. There is the selection of $3 and $4. You could indicate your choice if there are specific items that you want if not, auntie will just give you whatever items that are available.

The auntie handed me the plate of Nasi Lemak. It consists of a piece of otak, fried egg, fried fish fillet, selar kunning fish, ikan belis and a fried chicken drumstick with coconut infused rice. The sambal chilli is served by the side, it tasted a little spicy. Though it is more expensive now, it is still of pretty good value. They usually sold out before 1 pm. It is difficult to get such a plate of Nasi Lemak at this price in the town area. 

6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-25 Tanjong Pagar Food Centre SINGAPORE 081006
Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 1.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chef Yamashita : my birthday cake

I ordered a Mont Blanc from Chef Yamashita, again. The shop is nestled amongst the others at Tanjong Pagar Plaza, helmed by Chef Yamashita Masataka. He was trained in Tsuji Culinary Institute, a well-known culinary institute in Osaka, Japan. He worked at different patisseries in Japan and started his own in Nara before moving to Singapore. He took charge of Glace Patisserie and Flor Patisserie before starting Chef Yamashita. 

There are a few sizes and this is 17 cm x 12 cm for $45, for 4 to 8 pax. I ordered it online and indicated the message to be displayed on the cake. It tasted fresh and good, it has never disappointed. A simple but well-made cake can bring so much joy and happiness. 

I am another year older, wiser, and definitely more grateful.  

Block 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-44 SINGAPORE 082001
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 6.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chicky Fun : it could be better if the consistency is there

This is a chicken rice chain owned by the Kopitiam Group and this outlet is located at Bagus food court in Northpoint City, overseen by Chef Kiang. Chef Kiang, 81, is better known as Sergeant Kiang, he is a renowned Hainanese chef that started as a cook with the British Army. After discharge from the Army, he worked with The American Club before joining the Mandarin Hotel and was part of the pioneer team that created the most talked about Chatterbox Chicken Rice. He shared how did he convince the German boss to start selling the chicken rice in the 70s when I met him a few years ago.

Subsequently, he started Sergeant Chicken Rice at the Rasa Singapura and moved to a few places including Chevron before he sold it off to the BreakTalk Group that owned the Food Republic food courts. He worked as a Consultant to train the chefs in cooking the chicken and the rice with them. He even traveled to Taiwan and stayed there for 3 months when the food court first opened there. He left to start Jiang Ji Traditional Chicken Rice in a coffee shop along Havelock Road but was closed down when the coffee shop underwent renovation. He was invited by the Banquet Group to open Sergeant Kiang Kitchen at Jurong Point in December 2011 but closed in April 2012, he then started Chicky Fun chain with the Kopitiam Group. 

The friendly lady at the counter asked, "Roasted or poached chicken?" and I replied, "I like to have half of each." She said, "That will be an addition of $3." 

The chicken was nicely cooked, the meat was tender and smooth. Both portions were from the breast part and I would prefer the poached chicken to the roasted one as the latter was slightly dry. It did not serve with any sauce. 

The chilli is made using the chilli, lime, garlic and ginger. Sergeant Kiang ever mentioned no preservative is used in making the chilli. It is slightly spicier than the chilli from other chicken rice stalls. The most important factor to determine a good chicken rice is none other than the chilli. The ginger paste is finely grated, it is well-balanced and not overpowering. 

The rice was grainy and moist with a light chicken stock flavor. The lightly flavored soup is served with cabbage and garnished chopped scallion and fried shallots. 

There are more than 30 stalls of Chicky Fun in different Kopitiam food court and the standard can be quite inconsistent. 

Sergeant Kiang is one of the surviving legends. I still remember how his eyes sparkled when he talked about cooking and chicken rice. There are not many like him these days and he will always have my utmost respect.

930 Yishun Avenue 2 #1-101/102/103 North City South Wing SINGAPORE 769098
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Niche Savoureuse : nice cake, unresponsive on social media

This cafe has been around since their opening in 2014, nestled in the residential area of Toa Payoh Lorong 1. It is mentioned on their Facebook (FB) page that they have always taken pride in all their authentic handmade bakes. They emphasized strongly in the quality, taste, and affordability in their food as mentioned there.

I visited for the first time quite a while ago, I ordered their signature Ondeh Ondeh Cake and Iced Matcha. I was asked to take a seat and they will serve it to me. The Ondeh Ondeh Cake came first followed by the Iced Matcha at about 5 minutes later. The Ondeh Ondeh Cake reminded me of Pandan Chiffon cake and it tasted quite similar, there was gula melaka mixed with whipped cream spread in between the layers and topped with shredded coconut. It was quite nice.

I wanted to order a birthday cake and sent a private message to their Facebook page, asking about the price of a 5 inches Strawberry Field with handcrafted roses. The message was read but they did not reply, there is still no reply even after a few days. I guess they are just not interested in making such a small cake. This has ended on a bad note as such unresponsiveness is quite unwanted. I ended up ordering a Mont Blanc from Chef Yamashita for my birthday cake again.

A reply was received on 18 October likely from Melvin Tang, the owner. Apparently, their reason for not wanting to reply to my enquiry is that I have been making enquiries on a few occasions on prices but did not order from them so far. The owner seems to be quite short-sighted. He deemed that I am not worth his time in responding as I have not ordered from them so far. Let's see how far would such short-sightedness and arrogance go?

Another reply was received on 19 October.

Anyway, I did not compare them with Chef Yamashita. Their cakes are nice but not as nice as those from Chef Yamashita yet.

Block 128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-833 SINGAPORE 310128
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Mon to Thu) / 11.00 am to 10.00 pm (Fri) /
10.30 am to 10.00 pm (Sat) / 10.30 am to 9.00 pm (Sun) (Closed on Tuesdays)