Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lee Fun Nam Kee : the Michelin standard Soya Sauce Chicken

There is a story behind Lee Fun Nam Kee. It started by Mr Lee Nam as a food stall in 1966 at the food centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 4 before moving to its current location. He also co-founded another stall with a Mr Wee in Novena. Mr Lee decided to sell away his share of Nam Kee to Mr Wee and he then renamed it to Wee Nam Kee. Mr Lee was sued by the Nam Kee along Thomson Road for using Nam Kee as its name in the 80s. Mr Lee then added Lee to Nam Kee so it became Lee Nam Kee and later, he decided to add his wife's name to it and so Lee Fun Nam Kee is formed. It has been around for more than 40 years since then and it is now in the good hands of the second generation.

It was not too crowded when I was there for lunch. I ordered a portion of Soya Sauce Chicken ($6) to go with Plain Noodle ($2) and a bowl of Fresh Shrimp Dumpling Soup ($5) with their Homemade Barley ($1.80). This was my first time dining there, I usually will just order half of their Soya Sauce Chicken with rice and their Fresh Shrimp Dumpling Soup to takeaway. 

They are specialised in Hainanese style soya sauce chicken, which is different from the Cantonese version and its braising sauce comprises of 15 different types of herbs. It is a unique recipe that was created by the founder. It does taste different in an old-fashioned way which you do not get it elsewhere, the braising sauce is slightly sweeter, thick, starchy and not too salty with a slight herbal flavour. The chicken is so tender, moist and rich in flavour, not particularly spectacular but it is kind of special. 

This in, in fact, the Michelin standard Soya Sauce Chicken, not the other one. It is so much better than the soya sauce chicken from Liao Fan Hawker Chan that has been awarded 1-Michelin star. I was never a fan of their chicken not then and not now though this is more expensive but it is worth the value. 

This was my first time having it with their noodles and somehow, I would still prefer their rice a little more. The rice is slightly greasy but fragrant which is how a good chicken rice should be, it is so good that you could even eat it on its own. It is even so after left it for a few hours when I took away to have it for dinner at home.

Their Fresh Shrimp Dumpling Soup is a personal favourite which is a must-order each time. It consists of 5 pieces of plump dumpling for the smallest portion at $5, you could taste the crunchiness of the water chestnut embedded amongst the well-seasoned filling. 

This is a definite must-try if you are a fan of soya sauce chicken. 

Block 94 Toa Payoh Lorong 4 #01-04 SINGAPORE 310094
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm

Monday, March 27, 2017

Teppanyaki Hamburg Nihonbashi Steak Keisuke Bettei : Hamburg Steak

Chef Keisuke Takeda founded the Tonkotsu King, Takeda Shoten Sake Bar and Gyoza King that are located at Orchid Hotel together with Tori King at 100AM in Tanjong Pagar. This followed by the Tendon Ginza Itsuki, which is along Tanjong Pagar Road together with ramen shops in other locations. He has recently opened a hamburg steak shop along Peck Seah Street in Tanjong Pagar. It is specialised in Japanese-style hamburger patties that are minced in-house using US Prime beef with caramelised onions, eggs and other ingredients. The patties are shaped by hand into 150 grammes to 180 grammes each then seared on teppanyaki grill and served on the hotplates. 

The menu has only 2 different Keisuke Prime Beef Hamburg sets to choose, the difference is to have it Plain ($18.80++) or with Triple Cheese ($20.80++) which consists a blend of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan cheese.  You could choose to add an additional plain patty for $10.80++ and a cheese one at $12.80++. I decided to go with the one with cheese to go with their newly introduced Sukura Cola that costs $3.80++.

There are 4 different sauces to choose: Keisuke Original Sauce (soya base), Teriyaki Mayonnaise Sauce, Demiglas Sauce (tomato base) and Oroshi Ponzo (grated radish & citrus soya vinegar sauce). 

Each set includes a piece of tempura prawn, a bowl of Miso soup and refillable rice together with free-flow of cold dishes from the salad bar. The salad bar features 20 rotating items daily like Cha Soba Salad, Sapporo Ramen Salad, Potato Salad, Mixed Seaweed, Momotaro Tomatoes etc. 

There were different types of special dressing and condiments available at the salad bar. The choices of special dressing include Spicy dressing, No Oil Ao Shiso (Japanese Basil) dressing, Sesame dressing, Honey Miso Ginger dressing, Keisuke Original (French) dressing and Keisuke Original (Soya Base) dressing. There were also Black Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Extra Virgin Oil with condiments like Rice Cracker, White Sesame and Black Sesame together with Tempura Bits. 

It also includes free-flow of eggs done in 6 different ways like fried (sunny side up / turn over), deep-fried, boiled, half-boiled, scrambled, plain omelette and tamago yaki from the egg station. If your choice of egg is not available, you could even request it from the chef. 

Sakura Cola is a refreshing choice, quite similar to their Green Tea Cola that are bottled in Japan. They will serve iced water in a metal cup when you did not order a drink. 

Amongst all the choices of different types of eggs that are available at the egg station, I enjoyed the tamago yaki and scrambled egg the most. 

These were some of my choices from the salad bar, the Momotaro Tomatoes tasted really juicy and the cold soba salad was nice.

The main came faster than expected when I did not even finish my first serving of salad. The hamburg steak was served along with some slices of red pepper, a handful of bean sprouts, toasted beancurd skin (abuaage) and grilled tofu with bonito flakes.

The seasoned hamburg steak was served with a slightly charred surface, part of the cheese was already oozing out and drying up on the hotplate. And, you have to eat it fast before the cheese turned hard. I was not too impressed with the hamburg steak as it tasted just average even had it with the soya base Keisuke Original Sauce and Teriyaki Mayonnaise Sauce. The ginger taste of the Keisuke Original Sauce was a little too overwhelmed and the Teriyaki Mayonnaise Sauce was a bit too salty. Overall, it is not good enough to make me come back for more as I had eaten a better one. 

I have to emphasise that this is not an invited review as I understand most of the reviews that surfaced online were the invited reviews during the tasting session before their opening. 

72 Peck Seah Street SINGAPORE 079329
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm / 5.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Friday, March 24, 2017

Roxy Laksa : the best of Katong Laksa

It started in 1952 as a pull cart outside the then Roxy Theatre by the founder, Mr Lim Kok Seng. He was there with his son, Mr Lim Eng Hock for about 26 years until the closure of Roxy Theatre in 1978. They moved to East Coast Lagoon Food Village in 1979. Mike Lim, the current owner is the 3rd generation hawker and he started helping his father when he was done with National Service in 1981. He has eventually taken over the business and also inherited the family recipe. 

As none of his children is willing to take over the stall, he has decided to partner with chef Willin Low, an ex-lawyer that turned chef, which is also the owner cum chef of Wild Rocket. The heavily guarded family recipe has since passed on to chef Willin Low followed by the move to a stall in Timbre+ along Ayer Rajah Crescent. Chef Willin Low has been their regular customer and is a big fan of this legendary Laksa. He is planning to produce laksa paste based on this heritage recipe under the brand name.

The stall is currently run by Mike and Daisy, his wife and this is an assurance that the original taste is still maintained. The ingredients like coconuts, prawns and spices are sourced from his supplier or directly from the market. The coconuts are then freshly shredded and squeezed, he insisted on using only the freshly squeezed coconut milk. The spices are ground by Mike on a weekly basis in his own way. 

This is a bowl of a good Katong laksa and it is much better than the other one that is along East Coast Road. It is reasonably priced at $4.50 and it is $5.80 if you order with an otah which costs $1.50 if you order it separately. It consists of a good portion of thick bee hoon with ingredients like few slices of fishcake and 3 pieces of halved prawn, they do not serve with cockles. The smooth gravy is fragrant and rather light with a slight hint of dried shrimps. The sambal chilli though not really spicy but it has brought forth the flavour. 

With the step in of chef Willin Low, they are going to be around for a while longer.

73A Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-17 Timbre+ SINGAPORE 139957
Operating Hours: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Food Anatomy : not so good food

I was there last Friday. I ordered the Nasi Lemak cube and also the Laksa Pasta cube as recommended by that friendly lady manning the counter at that time. She said that the Laksa Pasta cube is her favourite and is definitely worth trying. I decided to go with just 2 cubes for $5.00, it is priced as $2.50 each. She took it out from the display counter and sending them into the microwave. She then placed them on the plate and she seemed to have a hard time when placing the Laksa Pasta cube as the pasta kept falling out. When she handed it to me, the Laksa Pasta did not seem to look as pretty as it supposed to look, in fact, it was a little messy. 

While walking back to the table, I had already taken notice of the unpleasant smell and it was somewhat further confirmed when taking the pictures. I took a small bite of the prawn patty and I threw it out immediately as it tasted sour, which is a likely indication that it has turned bad. When collecting the salted egg chicken wings from Two Wings, located just next to it, I went to the counter and talked with the same lady. I pointed at the Laksa Pasta cube and said, "I think the otah of the Laksa Pasta has already turned bad as it tasted sourish." She looked a little puzzled at that moment. I only found out much later that layer is supposed to be a prawn patty. Even so, it actually tasted like a prawn otah. 

She did not quite believe it initially as she replied, "It is supposed to have a sourish taste." I walked away with my salted egg chicken wings but I returned a little while later with the remaining of the Laksa Pasta cube. The same lady was holding a plate with a piece of Laksa Pasta cube on it. It was good that she bothered to taste it herself. When I handed the plate to her, she asked, "Do you want to exchange it?" I replied, "No, it is alright. Please be careful as it might cause food poisoning." She did not confirm that the Laksa Pasta cube has turned bad but she said, "It might be due to the hot weather." 

The Nasi Lemak consists of a few different layers that are made up of coconut rice, egg omelette and otah then topped with sambal chilli. Even though it was microwaved before serving it but the coconut rice was hard and dry. I guess it must have left it for too long. Though it is pretty to look at but the taste is just not quite there yet. Apart from its creativity, it seemed to be more gimmicky and not quite economical as well. I would rather pay a little more for a packet of Nasi Lemak that consists of the same items and probably with a chicken wing for about $3. 

I do not think this concept is marketable and it probably would not be around for too long.

73A Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-31 Timbre+ SINGAPORE 139957
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 11.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hua Li Fried Carrot Cake : black carrot cake is nice

This stall is manned by a couple, the wife would be the one taking the order, serving it as well as collecting the payment and the husband is behind the wok. They have a poster displayed at the front of their stall citing they have been voted to be the amongst top 10 best carrot cake in Singapore. You could choose between the white and the black fried carrot cake at $2.50, $3 and $4 or go for their fried oyster at $4, $6 and $8. I only managed to try the white and black fried carrot cake so far. I ordered the $3 portion of the white and also the black carrot cake. The white one seems to be their popular choice as the customer after me, ordered it too. 

The portion was good for $3, the nicely chopped up pieces of carrot cake were pan fried to a slight crispiness together with preserved radish and chilli then added in the beaten egg. When brought it close to my nose, I could actually smell the fragrance of preserved radish. Apparently, it did not taste as good as expected to be. To be fair, it was not too bad but it just happened not to be amongst the best that I have ever eaten. 

The black carrot cake is pan-fried with a good amount of dark sweet sauce for an added flavour. It did not seem to have as much egg added. It was good, in fact, I think it fared better than the white one. It could be easily one of the better black carrot cake that I have had. 

This is definitely worth a try if you happen to be here and is waiting for the seafood soup, this could be a tasty snack to go in between meals. 

4A Woodlands Centre Road #02-34 Woodlands Centre Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 731004
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 7.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tat Poh Chicken Rice : the old-school taste

It was on a Monday when I visited this stall in this sleepy food centre along Sembawang Road and as expected, most of the stalls were closed on that day including the popular western food stall. It was quite quiet even during lunch, the elderly couple manning this stall was just standing in front of their stall awaiting customers. I decided to try for the first time. I went ahead with roasted chicken drumstick rice with a braised egg for $4.00. 

It is self-service there. The elderly Uncle placed a plate of rice on the tray first then followed by the nicely chopped roasted chicken drumstick served together with the braised egg on a pile of cucumber slices. It was served along with a bowl of lightly flavoured soup that garnished with chopped spring onion. I helped myself with the chilli there. 

The chicken was flavorful and tender, it tasted different from most of the other stalls as it has a rather old-school taste. They do not serve it with the soy-based sauce but drizzled with sesame oil pretty heavily. The rice was rather grainy and slightly greasy with a hint of chicken broth. The chilli tasted spicy with a slight ginger taste. 

It was a simple yet satisfying choice for lunch in this food centre.

590 Upper Thomson Road #01-03 Sembawang Hills Food Centre SINGAPORE 574419
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 2.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Novena Fish Soup : a comforting choice

It was quite a while ago that I visited this food centre. This time, I went on a weekday during lunch and about half of the stalls were closed at that time. Most of the stalls here start as early as 4 am to cater to the working crowd and serve breakfast only. It was unexpectedly crowded during lunch but it was still easy to get a table. 

I wanted to have something from this stall but it was closed during the 2 occasions that I visited about a year ago. When approaching the stall, the Uncle saw me and asked, "What do you want to eat?". I replied, "Double Fish Bee Hoon Soup, the $5 portion." The Uncle then asked, "Do you want it with milk?" I asked, "What do you recommend?" The Uncle said, "If you take milk then just add it in." While he was cooking, I asked, "There used to be a stall in a coffee shop at Toa Payoh Lorong 8, right?" Uncle nodded, he said, "That coffee shop was sold away and we were forced to move. We have another 2 outlets. There is one at Admiralty and another one at Novena."

It was placed on my tray when it was ready. I passed a $5 note to Uncle and walked away with my tray but he called me then said, "Your change." I asked, "I thought I ordered the $5 portion?" Uncle smiled and said, "The rental is cheaper here." I did not pursue further. Maybe he just decided to charge me cheaper. 

It consists of a portion of thick bee hoon with 2 different types of fish, the fried and the boiled ones. Both were presented in thin slices and small pieces, it was also served along with some green then garnished with dried shallots. It did not taste too milky but with a slight ginger taste. The serving was quite small thus not too filling. 

It was a comforting choice, a simple yet satisfying lunch.

4A Woodlands Centre Road #02-22 Woodlands Centre Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 731004
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Saturdays)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Happy World Roast : by a passionate 3rd generation hawker

They have been around decades since 1961 at Sixth Avenue in Bukit Timah before moving to Empress Road Food Centre. This family run business is in the good hand of Edward Wong, the third generation that is running the stall currently. It is always heartening to see a passionate young hawker in doing his part to continue the legacy left behind by the earlier generations.

I went with their set for 1 pax that consists of a plate of char siew and sio bak together with a bowl of chap chye, a bowl of peanut soup and a bowl of rice for $6.00. 

The sio bak fared a bit better than the char siew and both are of a reasonable standard. It would be better if the braised sauce is served separately, perhaps in a bowl. The rice was served with dark sauce drizzled over, a rather traditional way of serving which you do not get to see it often these days.

Most roasted meat stalls do not serve chap chye, they might likely be the only one that is doing so. It tasted homely, a simple dish that is often cooked at home. It consists of cabbage, grass noodles and dried beancurd and it was braised over a good amount of time to achieve that delightful softness. It was also served along with a bowl of peanuts soup, another homely dish that will warm your heart. 

Though not the best but it has a lot of soul and authenticity that you do not come across often these days. This is truly the kind of passionate and hardworking hawker stall that deserves our utmost respect. 

7 Empress Road #01-107 Empress Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 260007
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Su Heng Self Made Fishball Minced Meat Noodle : that simple taste

I was in this food centre on a Monday and about 75% of the stalls were closed on that day. I was just walking around and this stall caught my attention. This stall was manned by an elderly Uncle all by himself. I was the only customer at that time and I decided to go with dry Kway Teow that costs $3.00 per bowl, this seems to be the only size that is available and there will be an additional charge for extra item added as stated. 

It was ready in just a bit, a bowl of simple looking kway teow with a handful of minced meat, slices of fish cake and lean meat, 2 pieces of fishballs together with bean sprouts and some green, was served. 

And just like how it looked, it tasted simple. Though an extra amount of chilli was added but its level of spiciness was quite mild. The kway teow was cooked just right and still tasted firm after tossed it with the sauce mix. It was a nice simple lunch. 

79A Circuit Road #01-97 Circuit Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 371079
Operating Hours: 3.00 pm to 9.00 pm (Daily)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sang Hock Guan Dried & Minced Pork : old-school bak kwa

I read that they are voted as better than the famous Lim Chee Guan. And, I decided to find out. I went on the day just before the eve of Chinese New Year at about 11.00 am, I was told that they have only left with the chilli bak kwa and the rest have been reserved. I went back again after the Chinese New Year. This time, there was no other customer in the shop but an elderly Uncle seated beside a table next to the counter. I decided to order 500 grammes of the original flavour for $24.00. He took a piece of pink paper together with a piece of the white one and started to place pieces of bak kwa on it. He then placed it on the weighing scale, he took out a piece and cut it into a smaller piece then put it back to that pile. He then wrapped it and placed it in a paper box then into a plastic bag that has their name printed on it. 

I was telling Uncle that their Bak Kwa is voted as better than the famous Lim Chee Guan. He said, "The business was extremely good this Chinese New year and we were sold out pretty quick." I asked him, "How much earlier do I need to order during the Chinese New Year?" He said, "You might not get to order it even in advance as we have only catered a certain amount for that and the rest is for the walk-in customers." In another word, they do not do mass production to cater to a larger crowd. The Uncle added, "Everything is handmade here. We have been doing so all these years." 

Though it might not be the best but it tasted different. It is slightly thinner thus not as tough with a rather old-school flavour and a distinct smokiness that most of the others do not have. To be fair, I would not think they are better than Lim Chee Guan but is definitely on par. You could taste the efforts that have been put in to ensure the consistency of their bak kwa as every piece tasted just the same. They really take great pride in doing so. It still tasted good even after left it for a few days.

If you do not want to queue for hours during the Chinese New Year, this particular family-owned bak kwa shop is definitely a good alternative but do order earlier to avoid disappointment. I could not help but wonder how much longer would they still be around? I do hope there is a next generation ready to take owner this family business and sustain it. 

Block 163 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-446 SINGAPORE 560163
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 9.30 pm (Daily)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hajime Tonkatsu & Ramen : Tonkatsu, one of the best in Singapore

The passionate Chef Tan-San started Hajime in 2016. 'Hajime' is the Japanese word for 'beginning' and the short form for 'Hajimemashite', which means 'Nice to meet you'. He has about 25 years of experience in Japanese cuisine and it began after a stint in Japan, where he mastered the art of Tonkatsu and returned in 1993 to helm the kitchen of Tonkichi, the first Tonkatsu speciality restaurant chain and that making him the first Tonkatsu chef in Singapore. In 2004, he took on the challenge of starting up Tampopo, a new Japanese concept restaurant which has since become a household name for authentic Japanese cuisine in Singapore. Chef Tan-San is known for various creations such as Kurobuta Pork Tonkatsu and Tonkatsu Ramen. 

I was led to a table for 2 at the corner and is right in front of the corner, near to the other exist. The menu was presented right after. I was asked, "Are you here for the first time?" I nodded. I was then told to mark the order on the order chit and presented it at the counter together with payment. It will be served to the table, though. I decided to go with their Premium Pork Loin ($19.90) since it is listed as a must-try. It consists of a premium cut of air-flown pork from Japan that is specially chosen for its tenderness and juiciness. I also ordered a canned drink to go along.

I brought the order chit to the counter and made the payment. I was given a glass with ice cubes in it which I brought it back to the table. The lady at the counter came over with the canned drink. Then, I took notice that there is a fridge right beside the counter where they stored all the canned drinks. I guess I might be expected to pick it up right there after paying but I was not informed to do so. 

I was presented with a bowl of sesame seeds and a grinder. I was then asked, "Do you know what to do with this?" I nodded. I waited for about 5 minutes before my food came. I was also told that the rice and shredded cabbage are free-flow and I just need to make the request over the counter. To start, I have to add the Tonkatsu sauce to the finely ground roasted sesame seeds for extra flavour and then drizzled the cabbage dressing over the shredded cabbage. 

The cabbage was crunchy and added a refreshing twist when eating it together. The pork Loin was coated with a layer of breadcrumb before deep-frying, for the desired crispiness. It was perfectly done and not greasy at all. The rice is sourced from Niigata and is grown in pristine waters from melting snow then milled locally to lock in its freshness. It is also served along with Tonjiru Soup that is made from Tonkotsu broth simmered with Japanese pork and a hint of yuzu for over 12 hours. 

My first mouthful of that perfectly fried Tonkotsu was a pleasant surprise. It tasted as good as what I had eaten in Japan. It was much better that I expected it to be and is probably one of the best, if not the, best Tonkatsu in Singapore. 

Their signature dishes include Miso Fillet ($17.90), Tonkatsu Ramen ($14.90) and Shabu Shabu Ramen ($14.90). There are also Donburi options like Salmon Don ($16.90), Chicken Teriyaki Don ($15.90) and Pork Fillet Katsu Curry ($15.90) with side dishes like Gyoza ($6.90), Agedashi Tofu ($3.90), Pork Korokke ($3.90) and Tori Karaage ($4.90) available. They do not charge GST nor service charge here, which is a good thing, this means having Tonkatsu can be quite affordable. 

1 Maju Avenue #02-07/08/09, myVillage SINGAPORE 556679
Operating Hours: 11.30 to 3.00 pm / 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Monday to Friday)
11.30 am to 3.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Saturday, Sunday & Public Holiday)