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)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Zhen Hao Lor Mee : must-try

I was surprised to find this popular stall still opened at about 1 pm on a Saturday when I was there to take away Fried Hokkien Mee from Hoe Hokkien Mee (#01-93). There were just another 2 customers in front of me. I was eager as I have heard of this Lor Mee but never get to try. The menu includes Treasure Lor Mee ($6), Traditional Lor Mee ($4), Cod Fish Fillet Lor Mee ($5) and Chicken Cutlet Horfun ($3). I ordered the Treasure Lor Mee and the light of the signboard went off after I received my bowl of Lor Mee as they operate from 7 pm to 1 pm the next day. This is a popular place for supper.

The amount of black vinegar added was a little overwhelmed and it is slightly too acidic for me. I would request for less of it the next time. It is served with ingredients like the pork ribs, pork belly, ngor hiang, shredded fish, braised egg and fritters, well dunked in the gravy. I requested for an extra amount of chilli to be added and even so, the level of spiciness is still manageable. The gravy is well-flavored and thick, it did not get diluted.

After trying this, I should be able to conclude the best Lor Mee amongst those that I have tried so far.

10 North Bridge Road #01-97 North Bridge Food Centre SINGAPORE 190010
Operating Hours: 7.00 pm to 1.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Chinese Kitchen : Taste of Taiwan

Chen Shucheng (陈澍城), 72, after launching Teochew City, his Teochew restaurant,  he then partnered chef Austen Ong, 51 to start a stall in the S-11 coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio central serving contemporary Taiwanese food. Chef Ong previously worked as chef de cuisine at Grand Hyatt Singapore for 16 years before opening The Chinese Kitchen, a modern Chinese restaurant at Cavan Road in October 2017.

Their aim is to offer restaurant standard food at hawker prices. Chef Ong tasted a lot of recipes to come out with the menu which includes 8 set meals, priced under $10. The 8 sets are Passion Fruit Sweet & Sour Pork, Pearl Rice ($6.80), Grilled Salmon Fish Fillet, Mild Spicy Coriander Sauce, Pearl Rice ($9.80), Pan-seared Beef Sirloin, Orange Juice Pineapple Sauce, Pearl Rice ($9.80), Grilled Lemongrass Chicken, Green Chilli Marmalade Pearl Rice ($6.80), Soft Shell Crab, Thai Garlicky Dip, Lu Rou Fan ($9.80), Miso Lu Rou Fan ($4.50), 13 Spices Crisp-Fried Tofu, Lu Rou Fan ($5.80) and Miso-Chilli-Garlic Organic Okra & Mushroom, Lu Rou Fan ($6.80). Chef Ong will be based at the stall for the time being while he is looking to hire and train a new chef. 

I ordered the Soft Shell Crab with Lu Rou Fan that served with the Thai Garlicky Dip. There is a number on the receipt and it is served according to that number. The set consists of a braised egg with a small side of kimchi and preserved cucumber as well as a bowl of soup. The braised pork is braised with Japanese red miso paste instead of the usual Chinese fermented bean sauce. It is more savory and not as sweet as the Lu Rou Fan found in Taiwan. It would be nice if a bigger portion of braised pork is given as I left with a lot of rice after the first few mouthfuls. The short-grained pear rice was cooked to a fluffy texture. 

The soft shell crab was perfectly fried to the desired crispiness and it remained so till the very last bite. It is nice to eat it on its own. The Thai Garlicky Dip is not spicy, not as garlicky as it was overwhelmed by the sourness and tanginess from the plum sauce and lime juice. It did not really go well with the fried soft shell crab. 

The braised egg tasted quite bland, did not have much of the soya sauce and 5-spice powder that supposed to be a part of the marinade as mentioned during their interview with the 8 DAYS Magazine. I would rather have more preserved cucumber then kimchi as it seemed quite out of place and did not go too well with the set. They might want to consider replacing it with salted vegetable or even braised cabbage. 

The creamy soup somewhat reminded me of the broth for ramen, there was kombu in it. 

Other than the Miso Lu Rou Fan at $4.50, the rest of the sets are priced on the high side and not as pocket-friendly. It might be a challenge for such a stall to actually survive in the heartland. 

Block 711 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 S-11 Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 560711
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm (Sun to Thu) / 11.00 am to 9.30 pm (Fri & Sat)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Australia Design Western Cuisine : mediocre western fare

I got to know about this Western food stall when they are trying to solicit votes for their participation in the Singapore Food Masters. This stall is located in a coffee shop at Ang Mo Kio Central. We decided to order Chicken Chop ($6.50) and Chicken Cutlet ($6.50). A small piece of cardboard was issued as the number will be reflected on the LED panel when it is ready for collection.

We collected both dishes together. The Chicken Chop tasted mediocre and not quite memorable. I was asked to choose between black pepper sauce and mushroom sauce, I opted for the latter but the sauce did not have much flavor. 

My dining companion, said, "It is not worth paying $6.50 for such a set." He said, "The coleslaw cannot make it, it is too wet and mushy. Their fries are likely to be those frozen fries that are readily available in supermarkets. Their baked beans are from the can." He did not like his Chicken Cutlet. He said, "Though nicely fried but it tasted a bit bland."

These dishes did not remind me a bit of Australia so why the stall is named as Australia Design? It sounded like an interior design firm. And, such a standard is an uphill task to solicit votes and to win a place in the Singapore Food Masters. I could not help but wonder how did they manage to be nominated in the first place? There are other noteworthy Western hawker stalls but they are not on the list.

Block 728 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 #01-4200 Mr Teh Tarik SINGAPORE 560728
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 11.00 pm

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fa Ji Dessert : traditional desserts

This is a popular dessert in Kovan Food Centre, though no queue but there is a constant flow of customers. There is a notice, saying, "Dear customers, please tell us if it is not nice to eat and please tell your friends if it is good. Making a complaint, call 97559813".

There was an elderly Uncle in front of me, the stall lady recognized him and asked, "Tau Suan?" I decided to have Red Bean with Corn ($2.30) and my dining companion went with Soursop Jelly ($2.30).

Red Bean with Corn ($2.30) is made up of a pile of shaved ice topped with sweet corn and red bean with condensed milk. It is such a simple pleasure. 

Soursop Jelly ($2.30) consists of shaved ice, ice jelly, tadpole jell,  and soursop. This is a refreshing choice for thirst quencher on a hot day.

209 Hougang Street 21 #01-47 Kovan Food Centre SINGAPORE 530209
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 9.45 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Soh Food : stewed duck, my kind of comfort food

I was there on a Sunday for lunch and the food centre was unexpectedly quiet as some of the stalls were closed. I came specifically for this newly opened stall serving traditional stewed duck. I decided to go with Duck Leg ($5.50), Salted Vegetable and Duck Soup ($4.00) and a bowl of rice ($0.50). There are also Duck Drumstick ($4.00) and Duck Wings ($3.00) available. The Whole Duck ($40.00) is available upon pre-order.

While waiting, the lady asked, "You stay around here?" which I replied, "No". She continued asking, "Then, how did you know about us?" I said, "I came across friends sharing food pictures of your stall. And, I tell myself that I better come over quickly before the reporters and bloggers write about your stall." She laughed and said, "Now, you do not have to wait too long."

The Duck Leg came with 2 pieces of braised mushroom and a portion of spinach served in a pool of tasty braised sauce. The stewed duck was really soft that the meat has fallen off the bone effortlessly. This is a very homely dish and is quite different from the braised duck. It is done differently and tasted not quite the same as well, the flavor is generally lighter. And, they are likely to be the only hawker stall in Singapore serving this traditional dish. 

The Salted Vegetable and Duck Soup is a comforting choice. It consists of 2 pieces of duck wings with salted vegetable and tomato. The flavor is light, not too salty or sour and it is also not oily. My dining companion compared it with the same dish served by Hup Seng Duck Rice at Sin Ming and he liked their version but I actually prefer this one. 

I was asked whether I want to have braised sauce drizzled over my rice. There is also an option to have it with kway teow.

This is soothing, comfort food that brings back warm memories of eating with family.

7 Empress Road #01-06 Empress Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 260007
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Guan Lee Sen Seafood . Teochew Fish-Head Steamboat : lost & found

This stall used to be at the Lavender Food Square before moving to this coffee shop at King George's Avenue. It was featured in the latest series of "Makan Lost & Found". Ng Kim Yong, the owner, started this stall with a friend in 1985 and it has been around for more than 30 years. He decided to move to this coffee shop after the demolishment of Lavender Food Square as most of their regular customers are staying in this area. 

We were there for an early dinner on a weekday and decided to go with the Fish Head Steamboat ($25) and Claypot Pork Ribs with Yam ($12) with 2 bowls of rice at $0.50 each.

The Fish Head Steamboat is just enough for 2 people, it consists of a few chunky pieces of red snapper, yam and 2 different types of vegetables, Tang O and white cabbage. It was quite unusual for a Cze Cha stall to serve Tang O with Fish Head Steamboat. Those pieces of fish tasted relatively fresh. The soup was tasty, too.

Claypot Pork Ribs with Yam is one of his signature dishes and is popular amongst the customers. The pork ribs were steamed for about 30 minutes to soften it before stir-fried in the wok with other ingredients. Those chunky pieces of yam were nicely mixed with the gravy. The pork ribs were rather tough, quite unexpectedly though. 

My dining companion, said, "Both are quite average tasting. Not that they are not good but it just did not quite stand out." I did not find both items to be memorable as well but the prices are quite reasonable. He jokingly said, "Some makan places are better to remain lost and not to be found".

805 King George's Avenue #01-146 Tian Xiang Can Shi Coffeeshop SINGAPORE 200805
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 12.00 am (Daily)