Friday, June 29, 2018

Rong Ji : homely comfort food

This stall has been around for the longest time, it was recommended by some of their regular customers on certain Facebook groups. I was there for lunch. There were just a few tables occupied in this quiet coffee shop. I decided to order a Seafood Horfun ($4) and Sweet & Sour Pork ($8) with rice ($0.50). The wait was a short one, it was delivered to our table in about 15 minutes, the Sweet & Sour Pork came first then the plate of rice and followed by the Seafood Horfun. 

I actually enjoyed the Sweet & Sour Pork quite a bit. It was better than most that I have tasted. The sauce was slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness and a well-balanced sourish taste. The piece of deep-fried meat though not as crispy as expected to be but it was not soggy as well, it was served together with chunks of cucumber, pineapple, tomato and red onion. It went really well with the rice. 

The Seafood Horfun was just average. Though the flat rice noodles were dark in color, it did not have much wok flavor. The gravy was not starchy but rather watery and not as flavorful. It was served with ingredients like sliced fish, lean meat, and prawns. 

We enjoyed the Sweet & Sour Pork so we decided to come back for dinner. It was quite crowded during the dinner. Most of the tables in the coffee shop were occupied at that time. When ordering, I asked, "Do I have to wait long?" The lady taking my order replied, "No. Not very long." I decided to go with Prawn Paste Chicken ($8) and Curry Fish Head ($22) with 2 plates of rice. We waited for about 30 minutes before it was served. 

My dining companion compared the Prawn Paste Chicken with the one served by the Hong Kong Street Long Ji and felt that it was just not as good. Though it was quite crispy, the flavor of prawn paste was rather mild thus not as flavorful. 

The Curry Fish Head seemed to be one of their popular dishes as a few other tables also ordered that. The Fish Head was quite a small one, served in a clay pot with brinjal, ladyfinger, and dried beancurd sheets. The taste was towards Indian style curry and its level of spiciness was quite mild, it is good even for my dining companion that has a low tolerance for spicy food.

It might not be the best tasting but these homely comfort foods are keeping their customers to come back.

Block 159 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 SINGAPORE 560159

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Houson Herbal Braised Duck at Jurong East

It is difficult to miss this stall as you could see the queue from afar. It is located in one of the coffee shops in Jurong East central just a stone's throw away from Jurong East MRT station. They are popular for their Herbal Braised Duck and Kway Chap though there are also other items like Pig's Organ Soup, Pig's Trotter and even the Braised Meat with Preserved Vegetable.

I ordered Kway Chap set for 2, added Braised Duck together with 3 bowls of kway (flat rice noodle sheets) for $13.50. The set also consists of braised egg, large intestine, braised meat, tau kwa and tau pok. 

It did not taste as nice as I remember but the large intestine and braised meat were still good. The braised duck did not have much of the herbal flavor and it was quite salty. I would prefer that it was chopped into bigger pieces as its texture was quite mushy. My dining companion that did not eat the large intestine, said, "I could not quite tell the duck meat from the intestine."

Those pieces of kway were thin and smooth served in a slight herbal-ish broth, it was quite nice.

132 Jurong Gateway Road #01-271 Happy Hawker Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 600132
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on alternate Mondays)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Chong Wen Ge Cafe at Telok Ayer Street

This cafe is located in Chong Wen Ge building owned by Singapore Hokkien Huey Kuan right next to Thian Hock Keng Temple that was once a Chinese school founded by Tan Kim Seng in 1949. There is also a Peranakan Tiles Gallery next to the cafe and a Music Box Museum upstairs owned by a Japanese. The cafe is named after the school to pay tribute to its past opened in May 2016. The menu focuses on Peranakan dishes like Nonya Laksa, Mee Siam and different types of Nonya Kueh.

The cafe was still quite crowded at 2 pm. I ordered at the counter and decided to have the Nonya Laksa ($11.80) and Iced Coffee ($2.50). I was given a buzzer after paying. I also wanted some of those Nonya kueh on display and I said, "I want to order some of those." The bespectacled auntie at the counter, said, "It is self-service." I stood in front of the display counter, wondering whether should I lift or slide the glass door to access to those kueh? The helpful foreign lady behind the counter was telling me to lift it. She handed me a small plate. Next moment, I was looking for a tong which I could not find. I tried asking the same lady. She pointed to a box on top of the counter. The tong was inside that box. I picked 3 different types of Nonya Kueh and proceeded to the cashier for payment. It was $4.50 in total and $1.50 per piece. There was a glass of Iced Coffee at the counter and I asked the same bespectacled auntie, "That's my Iced Coffee?". She nodded. 

I collected the Iced Coffee and that plate of kueh, holding onto the buzzer and walked out of the cafe towards the seating area outside. The buzzer sounded in about 5 minutes. I picked it up and walked towards the cafe, left the buzzer at the end of the counter and collected my bowl of Laksa.

The Iced Coffee was a better choice on such a crazily hot day but the taste was not quite memorable. The only outstanding one amongst that plate of kueh was Seri Muka Durian, the Kuih Lapis and Kuih Pulut Init were just average. 

The nicely presented Laksa came with 3 pieces of relatively fresh large-sized prawns that were neatly butterflied and de-veined. It was served along with a hard-boiled egg and slices of fishcake together with a handful of bean sprouts and chopped laksa leaves. The subtle spiciness was balanced with thick coconut milk for a richer flavor. The addition of bean sprouts has given the dish a desired texture. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

This is an interesting cafe but there is room for improvement for the service.

168 Telok Ayar Street SINGAPORE 068619
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 5.30 pm (Daily)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Prawnaholic : the fusion Prawn Mee

Alan Choong, 24, the owner, started this stall serving Prawn Mee, his favorite hawker dish. He ventured into the Food & Beverage industry about 5 years ago, working in hotels and restaurants before deciding to start this hawker stall. There are only 5 items on the menu, the Special Prawn Noodle ($6.50), King Prawn Noodle ($8.50), King Prawn Udon ($12.50) and 2 side dishes, Prawn Balls & Salted Egg Mayo ($6.50) and Salmon Skin & Salted Egg Mayo ($6.50). There used to be Lala Prawn Noodles at $4 but it has since been removed from the menu.

The first step to ordering is to select the type of noodles and the choices are yellow mee, thick bee hoon, kway teow or a mixture of those. There is the dry and soup version but their signature is the dry one. There are choices to add $1.00 for either lala, prawn, pork or an onsen egg. I ordered through Alan and I decided to have Special Prawn Noodle. Alan asked, "Do you want to add an egg?" I nodded. The total amount was $7.50. The Special Prawn Noodle came with a small portion of noodles, 2 pieces of large prawns, a homemade prawn ball and the torched Kurobuta Pork that replaced the usual pork ribs and sliced meat.

The prawn ball did not taste too special as I have eaten a similar one at Bai Nian Yong Tau Foo. The relatively fresh prawns were not deshelled and so making it rather difficult to eat without dirtying your hands. The Kurobuta Pork was quite a pleasant surprise and I would not mind paying for extra pieces but not for the onsen egg. Though the onsen egg has given the noodles a textual difference but not quite worth paying $1.00 for it. There was some pork lard added but was rather soggy and with a slightly burnt taste and bitterness. The accompanied chilli tasted strange though, it was a bit too sweet and lacking in spiciness. The bowl of soup that served along with the noodle was quite flavorful. 

There is also a traditional Prawn Mee stall at the first level of this food centre by another young hawker serving equally good prawn mee at cheaper prices. 

Block 110 Pasir Ris Central #02-12 Pasir Ris Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 519641
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 3.00 pm / 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hong Kong Jin Tian : re-opening on 16 Jun 2018

Mrs Yap, the lady boss of Hong Kong Jin Tian sent this to my phone. I left my phone number with her when I visited their stall at Ubi in Jun 2016. I got to know her when I went to their shop at Zion Road in August 2014 to do an article for Makansutra but that shop closed down later. They used to be famous for their 鸭脚包 and hopefully that legendary dish is back on their menu too. 

Block 34 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee #01-858 SINGAPORE 160034
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Vicky's vs Lana Cakes : who serves the best Chocolate Fudge Cake?

What constitutes a good chocolate fudge cake? Basically, it should be rich and satisfying. It also has to be moist and not too fluffy with a rather dense and thick frosting that has a good chocolate flavor. The cake-to-frosting ration has to be right as well in distinct layers. 

A blind taste test was conducted by The Sunday Times to find the best chocolate fudge cake in Singapore in 2016. Lana Cakes was listed as the number 1 and Vicky's as number 10. There were a total of 10 cakes selected from different bakeries. I posted in a group on Facebook asking for a recommendation of a Chocolate Cake and Vicky's was amongst those that are recommended. Some even commented that it is better than Lana Cakes. 

833 Bukit Timah Road Royalville SINGAPORE 279887
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Sundays

UPDATE: They have relocated to 1 Jalan Anak Bukit #02-K47 Bukit Timah Plaza SINGAPORE 588996 in January 2019.

It was started by Ms Vicky Tan, 73 in 1982 at Henry Park Apartment in Holland Grove Road before moving to Royalville along Bukit Timah Road in 2012. Vicky is the niece of Violet Kwan, the owner of the famous Lana Cakes at Greenwood Avenue. Vicky used to work for her auntie before setting up her bakery. It is so much easier to order a cake from her, you could do so by inputting it into their website or simply just call them 3 days ahead. You could even try your luck by walking in to get it.

I bought the smallest Chocolate Fudge Cake at 800 grams for $40 for a friend on his birthday and we agreed that it is, in fact, better than those from Lana Cakes. The chocolate used in the fudge and base sponge was of good quality that came with a well-balanced sweetness and did not taste too oily. The sponge was moist, tender and rather light.

36 Greenwood Avenue SINGAPORE 289239
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm (Tue to Fri) / 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (Sat)

Mrs Violet Kwan, the owner, is in her late 80s and she is looking for a successor after being in the business for more than 50 years. She started it in 1964 from her home in Serangoon Garden before moving to Hillcrest and opened her shop at Greenwood Avenue in 1975. She is looking to sell the business including the recipe and the shop. Her cakes have been a part of the growing up memories of most Singaporean grown up eating her cakes. It got popular by the spread of mouth and slowly becoming the old-fashioned comfort food for generations of Singaporeans. Till date, it still brought back forth fond memories of enjoying the cakes while growing up for most Singaporean. 

It is still difficult to get a cake from Lana Cakes. You cannot just walk in and buy one right there. You have to call at least a week ahead. If you call too early, you would get told off as it is not possible to order so far in advance. It is also difficult to call through as there is a pretty high chance that the call is left unanswering. And, they do not have a website. 

The Chocolate Fudge Cake used to be better. It was springy and light, rich, not too dense and not overly sweet with a strong chocolate flavor then. The standard has since dropped. It did not taste as good when I ordered an 800 grams Chocolate Fudge Cake at $44 for a birthday last year. It was not as moist and a not too strong chocolate flavor. Maybe it is not so much about the actual taste of the cake but more on the familiar taste that creates a sense of nostalgic.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jin Song : Wanton Mee

This stall has been in this food centre for quite a while, serving Wanton Char Siew Mee, Dumpling Mee, Mushroom Mee, Mushroom & Chicken Feet Mee and Ipoh Hor Fun. They are directly competing with Ang Mo Kio 453 Wanton Mee at the same row, just a stall away. There are usually queues at both stalls but the queue at this stall is always moving faster thus it is usually shorter.

I was there on a Sunday, the queue at Ang Mo Kio 453 Wanton Mee was really long at about 1 pm. I decided to go with same options at this stall as an alternative. I have eaten once at this stall quite a long while ago and the taste was not too memorable at that time. The Wanton Mee is priced at $3, the same price as their competitor next door and their Wanton Soup is $3.50, different by 0.50 cents. I added 2 pieces of chicken feet for $1.00, the same price.

My dining companion said, "I prefer this wanton a bit more. It is much bigger in size." He then said, "I think the sauce tasted a bit like those for chilli crab but even so I still prefer the other Wanton Mee a bit more." The wanton is slightly bigger and the well-seasoned filling has a softer texture with a notable dried sole fish taste.

I actually prefer the other Wanton Mee too. Their chilli is spicer and more aromatic. Their noodles are springier and firmer. Their braised chicken feet is more flavorful as well. 

Block 162 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 #01-30 Mayflower Food Centre SINGAPORE 560162
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 3.00 pm