Monday, July 30, 2018

Zheng Xing Fried Kway Teow Mee : not worth the long wait

There were a few people gathered in front of this stall when I was there. I was curious and decided to try their Fried Kway Teow Mee. There is the $3 as well as $4 portion and I went ahead with the larger portion. I was given a number tag after ordering. It was 1 pm then and I was told to come back at about 1.25 pm. The lady said, "Your order should be ready by then."  I went back at about 1.25 pm and it was not ready yet. I waited for another couple of minutes before receiving it. I was expecting it to be of a certain standard after waiting for so long. 

My first mouthful did not manage to amaze me. It was not bad but not mind-blowingly good. It was just a mass of kway teow and mee stir-fried with ingredients like Chinese sausage, egg, cockles and a handful of cockles. The color was much lighter than most Fried Kway Teow. The dark sweet sauce is clearly omitted as it did not have the usual sweetness. It is also not as savory as the Penang Fried Kway Teow. I requested to have less chilli added but it still tasted quite spicy. 

Block 35 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-35 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre SINGAPORE 310035
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm (Closed on Sundays & Mondays0

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sin Sin Prawn Crackers : the fried bee hoon is must-order

This was one of the stalls that got a queue during lunch on a Friday. I joined in the queue and waited for a few minutes to order. I could not quite decide what to order as there is an extensive range of items for selection. I picked a prawn cracker, a prawn fritter, a ngor hiang, a spring roll and a prawn roll, together with a plate of fried bee hoon for $5.50. 

My dining companion said, "The ngor hiang tasted really fresh. It is quite soft and you could taste the five spice powder in it." He also said, "The prawn roll tasted a bit like the Hei Zho, it is nice." The rest of the items tasted equally fresh as well.

The fried bee hoon at the very first look did not seem to be appetizing as its color was rather pale. I was amazed at how fragrant it tastes when I had my first mouthful and I could not stop eating after that. Though Fried bee hoon is just a simple dish, it is difficult to cook it this well. It is so good that I could just eat the fried bee hoon by itself. This is definitely one of the better ones that I have eaten. 

Block 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-46 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre SINGAPORE 310210
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Bee Kee Wanton Noodles : traditional flavor is still the best

This stall is in the coffee shop at Lorong Lew Lian, off Upper Serangoon Road and they started in March 2014. Their menu includes Original Wanton Noodle, Braised Pork Soft Bone Noodle (dry / soup), Braised Pork Soft Bone Rice and also side dishes like Fried Wantons, Wantons in Chilli Vinegar Sauce and Wanton Soup. There is a signage indicating "Truffle Wanton Noodle", which is their specialty at $6 per plate. There are 2 other stalls at Amoy Street Food Centre and Market Street Interim Food Centre. 

The stall was manned by an auntie with a younger man that does the cooking when I was there. I decided to go with their Original Wanton Noodle and added a portion of the braised pork soft bone for $5.00. When it was ready, I asked, "This one is without truffle oil, right?" The auntie replied, "No. We would not put it in if there is no request." I am never a fan of those truffle fries, the truffle oil actually reminded me of those engine oil which I did not like. I did not dare to go with the truffle oil version as I am afraid I might just leave it unfinished and walk away. And, it seems by adding truffle oil to just anything is a good reason to justify a higher price.

The noodles are different, it is slightly thinner than the usual mee kia with a springier texture and is without that alkaline flavor. It did not clump together even after leaving it for a while. The char siew is made using leaner meat so it is slightly drier. The braised pork soft bone was nicely done to the desired texture though not as flavorful as expected to be.

I have always thought the traditional flavor is still the best and that is the reason I do not usually go for the fusion dishes. I am an old soul and those are just not for me.

Block 2 Lorong Lew Lian Food Park SINGAPORE 048940
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm (Monday) / 7.00 am to 8.00 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rumah Baba Fred : homey Nonya dishes

This Peranakan cafe is located along Changi Road run by a passionate husband and wife team. It is quite small with limited seating capacity indoor and outdoor. It is cozy and welcoming, just like eating at a friend's house. 

I ordered a bundle of Nonya Kueh Chang on their Facebook and went to collect it on a Saturday. I waited in front of their counter, behind another customer. Baba Fred was serving that customer and his wife greeted me. She asked, "Collecting your chang?" I nodded then said, "I am having lunch too." She placed a piece of banana leaf on a plate then scooped some rice on it. I pointed to the Beef Rendang and the Curry Vegetable followed by a piece of Ngor Hiang. I also ordered a glass of Lemon Grass to go along. She said, "You go take a seat first, I will heat up the Ngor Hiang and bring it to you together with the Lemon Grass drink." I went to take a seat outside the shop. She brought the Ngor Hiang over first. She said, "If you could not finish the Ngor Hiang, I can pack them for you to take away." Baba Fred sent the Lemon Grass drink later. He asked, "You are collecting your chang too? It is under what name?" I mentioned it. His wife came over later with the Lemon Grass drink and also a bag of Nonya Kueh Chang. She counted them to make sure it is 10 pieces. She also presented a receipt that stated the amount to pay for the lunch. 

There were another 2 customers seated at the table beside me. The wife walked past with their orders. She smiled and said, "You managed to finish the Ngor Hiang." I replied, "It tasted different from others." She said, "We freshly made them with quite a few ingredients." I said, "It is very nice." These classic Nonya dishes were so comforting. 

Their Nonya Kueh Chang is only available upon advance order. It has already fully booked for the month of August. It is still prepared in the traditional method, the rice is first steamed then putting it with the filling to be wrapped in those bamboo leaves then steamed again. The intense blue color in the rice is derived from the Blue Pea. Each piece consists of a generous amount of filling, it is soft and moist. It is, in my humble opinion, better than those that I used to order from Kim Choo Kueh Chang.

116 Changi Road #01-01 WIS@Changi SINGAPORE 419718
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm (Saturday & Sunday)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Chye Lye Curry Fish Head Restaurant at Sembawang

I got to know about this restaurant from their postings on Facebook. They have been around since 1967 serving the usual Zi Char fare. They are located in a coffee shop directly opposite Sembawang Shopping Centre. There are clusters of shophouses that given the uniquely old-school charm to this northern part of Singapore. Amongst their dishes, Curry Fish Head is the most popular. It must be of a certain standard if not, it would not be featured on their signboard. We were there for a late lunch. The coffee shop was rather quiet at that time and I actually thought they were not in operation. A lady walked out to greet us when we were there. 

We decided to go with their signature Curry Fish Head ($23) with 2 plates of rice at $0.80 each. Their Curry Fish Head was served with different types of vegetables and tau pok. The curry was in orange color, rich texture but not overpowering with a hint of tanginess and a mild spiciness. The red snapper head was rather substantial, tender and relatively fresh.

My dining companion compared it to the famous Kam Long Curry Fish Head in Johor Bahru and still think they serve a better Curry Fish Head. He is still hunting for a similar style Curry Fish Head that is as good. 

1 Jalan Legundi SINGAPORE 759263
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.30 pm / 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Long House Soon Kee Boneless Braised Duck Rice . Porridge . Noodle

The stall started at the defunct Long House Food Garden at Jalan Besar Stadium in 1986 before moving to Long House Food Court along Thomson Road then to a coffee shop at Tyrwhitt Road. The 2 brothers decided to go their separate way from there. One of them started a stall at Balestier Market and the other brother started another stall in Ang Mo Kio. It is located beside the popular Roast Paradise that has another stall in Old Airport Road Food Centre.

Dry Kway Teow is my usual order and I always add a braised egg, liver with an extra portion of braised duck at $6.50. The braised egg and liver were presented on a separate plate with a few pieces of cucumber, drenched in the braising sauce. It was also served along with a bowl of herbal-ish soup.

The Kway Teow was cooked well to retain its firmness and not mushy. It tasted good when it was tossed evenly with the braised sauce and chilli. The braised duck was nicely deboned and chopped into thin slices, it was flavorful and still retained its tenderness. 

Block 531 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-2429 SINGAPORE 560531
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on alternate Wednesdays)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Punggol Noodles : the one-armed hawker legend

Mr Yee Meng Yong, 55, the owner, he lost his right hand in an industrial accident in 1984 at the age of 21. Another setback was the loss of his wife in 2008. He has been cooking with just his left hand for 22 years to raise his family. It used to be a noodle stall in Punggol Road near to St Anne's Church. It was only $1.20 for a bowl then in 1985. It moved to Kovan Food Centre then to Block 210 Hougang Street 21 before moving to its current location in October 2011. That is why the stall is known as Punggol Noodles even though they are located in Hougang. 

There are different types of Teochew-style Minced Meat Noodles from $3 to $3.50 as well as side dishes like Braised Intestine ($2), Teochew Meatball Soup ($2/$3) and Vegetable Soup ($2) on their menu. There is also Teochew Handmade Meatball paste at $12 per box for ordering, each box can be made into about 30 meatballs. 

I decided to go with Minced Pork Noodle ($3.50) and a bowl of Teochew Meatball Soup ($2). Their signature handmade meatball is as big as a ping pong using minced meat, fish and deep-fried sole fish as its main ingredients. Uncle started making it when he took over the stall from his father in 1995, it was handed down to his parents from his grandfather. He was forced to do the cooking due to circumstances. 

He asked, "Do you want pork liver? Do you want it with bean sprouts?" Uncle is cheerful and rather friendly. He went swiftly ahead to blanch the pork liver, lean meat, minced meat and the meatballs in the boiling water before dished up and placed them in 2 bowls. The assistant ladled the soup into the bowls thereafter. He quickly tossed a portion of noodles in the boiling water and started to prepare the sauce mixture in a bowl, he then balanced the strainer with his amputated right arm while stirring it using his left hand before placing the blanched noodles into the bowl and topped it with braised mushroom. It left me feeling amazed.

I was delighted that those slices of pork liver were cooked to a perfect tenderness. I noticed that the soup was lukewarm so as not to continue cooking those liver in the bowl. The soup was lightly flavored with a hint of natural sweetness. The noodles were cooked well to retain its springiness. The well-flavored meatballs were not overly starchy coupled with the desired bounciness and a notable flavor derived from the dried sole fish. It tasted unique and different from the other meatballs. 

I am definitely coming back for the braised intestine that I did not get to taste it this time and I will go for additional ingredients when ordering the Minced Pork Noodle again. 

Block 105 Hougang Avenue 1 #02-24 Hainanese Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 530105
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Mondays and Fridays)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee : not as good as expected

Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee started by Peter Lim, the founder, in a coffee shop at Jago Close. The coffee shop is along East Coast Road and near to Holy Family Church, before moving to Tanjong Pagar Food Centre. Benny, his son, started to help out before eventually took over the stall. He is manning it single-handedly now. The stall was quite popular when they were in Katong but not so now though there is still a queue during lunch. I tried it once a long time ago but I did not have much impression now. 

We were there on a Sunday. While ordering Lor Mee from Soon Heng Food Delights, I could hear the clanging sound of the wok from afar. My dining companion suggested, "Let's go check out the Fried Kway Teow." We decided to go with the larger portion of Traditional Teow Chew Fried Kway Teow at $4. There is a smaller portion at just $3. There is also Penang Style Fried Kway Teow at $4/$5 and Seafood Fried Kway Teow at $4/$5.

The Traditional Teow Chew Fried Kway Teow uses a black sweet sauce with ingredients like fishcake, bean sprouts, and vegetable. As my dining companion does not eat cockles, it was requested to be left out. It was served with a piece of lime. This is likely the first time that I ever encountered this. 

My dining companion said, "The sweetness from the black sweet sauce is quite light." He continued, "Maybe it should not be served with a lime. It must be the cause of the mild sweet taste." He said, "It might go better if it is served with the Penang Style Fried Kway Teow."

The fried kway teow was quite moist but not quite flavorful. My dining companion said, "I do not think I will order this again." 

6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #01-05 Tanjong Pagar Food Centre SINGAPORE 081006
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hong Kong Stewed Soup . Zhong Zai Fan : is there a change of ownership?

I was there on a rainy Sunday, the coffee shop was not as crowded as expected at about 1 pm. I usually ordered from this particular stall manned by a couple originated from Hong Kong. There are different types of stewed soup and steamed rice on their menu. I decided to go with Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice ($3.50), Salted Fish Steamed Pork Rice ($3.50) and Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs ($4.00).

The Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice that has always been a personal favorite that I often order. I ever told the friendly auntie that, "Your Preserved Vegetable Braised Pork Rice is one of the best that I have ever eaten." She replied in a distinct Hong Kong accent Mandarin, "It has been steamed for many hours to have that kind of softness and flavor." It was disappointing this time, the first ever since I started eating at this stall more than a decade ago. 

The texture of the braised pork was not as soft as it used to be. There was a notable chewiness and not as flavorful. The blanched vegetable tasted bitter. It did not help even when I tried to pour soya sauce over it and tried eating it with the red cut chilli so I left it uneaten.

The Salted Fish Steamed Pork Rice was better. Those pieces of sliced meat were steamed together with shredded ginger together with the rice. The texture of the meat was tender and tasted quite flavorful. Somehow, it was not as good as I remember.

The Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs consists of a few pieces of rather tough pork ribs. 

Is there a change of ownership? I did not see the familiar auntie at the stall there.

Block 925 Yishun Central 1 #01-249 SINGAPORE 760925
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Saturdays)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Muffles - Sweet Treats & Bakes

Met up with May Chow to collect the kee chang with red bean paste that I ordered. She used to run a hawker stall at Jalan Berseh Food Centre but gave it up recently after 2 years. Prior to that, she used to work as a pastry chef with Mandarin Orchard and Resorts World Sentosa before starting the hawker stall. 

I asked here, "Why did you give up your stall?" She said, "I had to pay $600 every month for cleaning fee when I did not even use plates for those pastries that I served." She continued to say, "And, I realized that I spent about $14,000 during the past 2 years for nothing. She said, "It is just not worth it."

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fatty Bombom Sizzle at Toa Payoh North

We were there at about 5 pm but the light of the signboard of this stall was still off even though it is stated on their Facebook page that they are starting at 5 pm. There were also other customers waiting as well followed by more and more customers coming to wait. This seemed to be the most popular stall amongst the others in the hipster foodcourt. Their food must be of a certain standard to be this popular. 

At 5.20 pm, the staff was spotted walking into the stall. The chap at the counter offered to take my order when I was looking at the menu board. He said, "We will only start cooking at 5.30 pm." I decided to go with Cajun Chicken ($6.90) and Crunchy Chicken ($7.20). I was given a buzzer after paying up. We waited till 5.50 pm to receive the orders despite I was the first customer to order. The Cajun Chicken was ready first followed by the Crunchy Chicken. 

The Cajun Chicken did not taste quite like it. What exactly is Cajun? Cajun is relating to a style of cooking originating amongst the Cajuns and characterized by the use of spicy seasonings such as cayenne pepper and paprika. In this instance, I could not taste the spiciness in the seasoning. The chicken was served in a pool of brown sauce and totally covered by the same sauce, which I suspected to be the black pepper sauce. It might be more appropriate if they named it Back Pepper Chicken instead. By the way, there is also a Black Pepper Chicken on their menu. Did they mess up the order? I am quite certain that it was not Cajun Chicken. The chicken tasted quite bland without the sauce. 

The chunky fries were sprinkled with Cajun seasoning though, the spiciness though mild but quite distinctive. 

I could not understand why did they serve coleslaw on the hotplate? It is supposed to be served cold and not warm. They actually placed it on a leaf of lettuce but it did not keep the heat away. They should have it served separately since there are no other choices for side dishes.

The Crunchy Chicken did not fare any better. It was served along with mayonnaise. It was fried well to a notable crunchiness but the meat was surprisingly bland as well.

My dining companion commented that their popularity might have to do with the limited options of halal Western food which I agreed. There is actually a better Western food stall nearby but not halal-certified though.

When I met up with KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, for the first time for an interview for a writing position. He clearly told me that "Nice say nice and not nice say not nice". I have been following this principle all this while and trying to stay objective. Some might think that writing a negative review will have an indirect impact on the establishment. While writing for Makansutra, I went to review OMGrill, a stall manned by the winner of Wok Star, a local TV cooking programme. He was offered a stall in the coffee shop rent-free for the first 6 months by a particular F & B group as part of the prizes. Apparently, the stall did not make it and closed after a while. I seriously do not think my honest review has directly contributed to its closure. 

978 Toa Payoh North Grains & Hops Food Court Bistro SINGAPORE 319001
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.30 pm / 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)