Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Old Amoy Chendol : a bowl of simple goodness

It was founded in the 1950s started from a pushcart along Amoy Street but closed in 2004 and recently revived by the owner's grandson, Zhao Youning, 32, the former model and chef Justin Foo of Provisions. It is based on the original recipe from his retired Grandpa. The stall has been around for more than a year, located at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre and it only serves Chendol at $2 per bowl.

They insist in using the fresh cold-pressed coconut milk and not the coconut milk powder like some other stalls, that might compromise the taste. They are using gula melaka that is sourced from an artisanal producer in Sarawak and not brown sugar, which is often a cheaper alternative. 

The pandan jelly worms are made of mung bean flour with juice extracted from the pandan juice, the texture is much softer as compared to those that are factory-made and it has a light pandan flavor. The mashed red bean is soft though not overly mushy at just the right level of sweetness. Everything is made from scratch on a daily basis. Both ingredients are placed on a pile of shaved ice together with coconut milk and the caramelized gula melaka in a porcelain bowl.

It tasted fresh with not a bit of artificial flavoring detected though I prefer the coconut milk to be slightly sweeter and creamier with a stronger gula melaka flavor. It has been a while to come across such a refreshing bowl of chendol. Such simple pleasure of life brings happiness. 

Block 335 Smith Street #02-008 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 8.30 pm (Daily)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Xin Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice : not just taste but service matters, too

This is one of the stalls with a queue during lunch on a weekday. The friendly auntie greeted me with a smile. I decided to go with Chicken Drumstick rice. I asked, "How much?". The auntie replied, "$3.50". And, I said, "It is at least $4.00 or more at other places." She replied, "We could not afford to sell it any higher as we are located in a hawker centre unlike those in the air-conditioned food court."

There was a young chap ordered right after me. She recognized him and asked, "Buying for your mother? She is so lucky to have a son buying lunch for her."

I shared it with my dining companion and we agreed that the roasted chicken tasted just normal. The rice was quite a big portion but the flavor was rather light and slightly dry. It was served with a bowl of lightly flavored soup. The chilli was slightly diluted with a mild level of spiciness. 

Sometimes it is not just the taste of the food that kept bringing the customers back but the service matters too. I was told by a hawker that I should not expect customer service from the hawker stall as I do not pay the service charge. The stall closed it down a few months later after that particular encounter. It was a popular noodle stall serving in a food centre.

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-20 Upper Boon Keng Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Penang Fried Kway Teow : around for 20 years

This stall only serves Penang Fried Kway Teow for $3.00 per plate. The Aunty saw me taking pictures of her stall. She asked, "You are taking pictures?". I replied, "I want to tell my friends about your stall as there are not many stalls serving Penang Fried Kway Teow these days." 

She said, "We are the second generation hawker, the stall has been handed down from my parents and it has been around for over 20 years in this food centre." And, I said, "Some of the younger hawkers only managed to be around for a few months before quitting it." She continued to say, "It is not easy to run a hawker stall these days. I read about it in the newspaper. It has been very much monopolized." I asked, "How much is your rental?" She replied, "All in all is around $2,000. The cleaning fee itself is already about few hundreds." I asked, "May I know your operating hours?" Aunty replied, "Better do not say, I will close when it is sold out."

It did not actually taste like the Penang Fried Kway Teow but more like a healthier version of usual Fried Kway Teow. The kway teow was broken up in the smaller pieces, it was served with a generous amount of bean sprouts added together with choy sum and other ingredients like lup cheong, prawns and cockles. The level of spiciness of the chilli was mild. 

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-08 Upper Boon Keng Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017

Thursday, November 22, 2018

33 Vegetarian Food : mock chicken rice

Mr Sow, the owner, used to be selling chicken rice at this stall for 15 years together with his wife before he decided to convert it to a vegetarian stall in 2014 after he and his wife became vegetarian. This is not the usual vegetarian stall as they do not serve fried bee hoon nor economy mixed vegetable rice. Their menu consists of all sorts of mock chicken dishes, like Chicken Burger, Chicken Cutlet, Chicken Nuggets with fries, Curry Chicken Noodle, Thai Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken and also Chicken Rice. Their most popular item on the menu is the Healthy Chicken Rice Set ($6.80). It consists of the mock version steamed chicken and roasted chicken made using tofu skin accompanied by a portion of achar and blanched vegetable with vegetarian oyster sauce together with a bowl of soup. I decided to go with the set. 

My dining companion was amazed by how realistically resembles the steamed chicken, it has a layer of jelly-like skin, just like the real stuff. He said, "I would have thought this is the real chicken just by looking at it but it did not quite taste like it." The roasted chicken actually reminded me of those fried beancurd sheets that are usually served with vegetarian fried bee hoon. 

The chilli and ginger paste actually tasted like those at the usual chicken rice stalls, which is good and it definitely enhanced the overall flavor. 

The texture of the rice rather light and fluffy but not as fragrant. That bowl of winter melon soup was quite flavorful though. 

Nonetheless, it is definitely a good alternative for vegetarians that miss eating the chicken rice. I am impressed with such a specially-curated vegetarian menu.

Block 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-33 Teck Ghee Square Food Centre SINGAPORE 560409
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Thu to Mon) / 11.00 am to 6.00 pm (Tue)
(Closed on Wednesdays)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Yaloh : Herbal Roasted Duck, must try

On 13 November 2018, there was a free delivery provided to Ang Mo Kio. I took the opportunity to order and tried the Herbal Roasted Duck for the first time. I ordered by sending a WhatsApp to the number stated. A response was received later. The order was confirmed and I paid via PayNow to reserve a duck and for it to be delivered to the drop-off point of my house.

On Tuesday, a message was received at 5.30 pm informing me that the duck has been despatched from the kitchen. It was mentioned that the estimated delivery time would be 10 minutes. I replied that I would be waiting at the drop-off point at my place. A message was received to inform that it has reached the other carpark. Jovison actually made the effort to walk over when I mentioned I was at the drop-off point of the other carpark. He handed the duck to me and reminded me to give a review after that. 

The duck was nicely packed in 2 boxes with the 2 portions of herbal sauce and chilli. It actually tasted just like the herbal roasted duck from Dian Xiao Er but at a more affordable price. They have a stall at Golden Mile Food Centre. Though the duck was roasted with various types of herbs, the flavor was rather light and the skin was slightly soggy but it still tasted good when eating it with the herbal sauce.  You could choose to pour over the roasted duck or use it as a dipping sauce. It has a distinctive taste of Dang Gui (当归) or Chinese Angelica Root, though slightly strong but not overpowering. I would prefer to eat it without the chilli as it has not much effect in enhancing the flavor.

This is an alternative for the herbal roasted duck. It is as good if not better, a must try. 

505 Beach Road #01-109 Golden Mile Food Centre SINGAPORE 199583
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mei Seng Kway Teow Mee : cheap & good

This stall had the longest queue in the food centre during lunch on a Sunday. I decided to join the queue out of curiosity. There is the option to choose between the dry or soup at $2.50 and $3.00. They might be one of the few stalls that are still selling their bowls of noodles from $2.50. Where else to actually get a bowl of noodles at this price? The light of the signboard went off after I joined the queue. Two of the customers went to queue after me but was told no more and so, I was the lucky one to get their last bowl.

I went with the larger portion of mee pok, it was served along with a bowl of soup that contains ingredients like the fishball, fishcake, sliced meat and minced meat. 

After tossing the mee pok to mix it with the chill and chopped spring onion, my dining companion had his first mouthful and he said, "Their special chill did not taste as spicy as it looked. And, it actually made the mee pok tasted special and different from the others." The noodles were cooked well, it was tender but firm to the bite.

My dining companion tasted the soup and said, "The soup is unexpectedly tasty, it is nice. The combination of the noodles and soup is good." 

Most of their customers actually ordered the dry mee tai mak and it was also the first to run out. I like it enough to want to come back for more.

Block 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-37 Teck Ghee Square Food Centre SINGAPORE 560409
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 4.00 pm

Friday, November 16, 2018

Hougang 6 Milestone : Simon Road Fried Oyster, Lost & Found

This famous fried oyster from Simon Road went missing about 2 weeks ago from the coffee shop at the corner of Simon Road. I started to receive messages asking the whereabouts of this stall. It was first mentioned by Tee Tony, the founder of Food Intelligence Network Singapore, a group on Facebook that someone looks like Ah Pang, the owner, was spotted at Upper Boon Keng Road Food Centre. Ian Low of The Silver Chef went over to confirm that he has indeed moved to that food centre. 

I was there earlier for lunch. Ah Pang was standing outside the stall. I greeted him and said, "Many people have been asking about your stall after it went missing from the coffee shop at Simon Road." He smiled and said, "There is a change of ownership so have to move." He did not elaborate further though. He asked, "Fried Oyster ah?" I replied, "The $10 portion." The Fried Oyster ($5/$8/$10) and Fried Kway Teow ($3) are available from 11.30 pm to 5.00 pm as indicated on their signboard. The Fried Carrot Cake is available from 7.00 am to 11.00 am. He is still frying every plate by himself.

He saw me taking pictures of his stall. He said, "Thank you for telling your friends about my stall."

It is still the same familiar taste, the starch and egg mixture were nicely crisp at certain parts and the smoky flavor is still missing. It is still good but if you have tasted the one fried by his later father, it is still not quite on par yet. 

My dining companion still enjoyed it nonetheless though he felt it did not taste as good as it used to be. 

UPDATE: They have moved to Block 212 Hougang Street 21 SINGAPORE 530212 at the coffee shop next to the bowling alley. 

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-42 Upper Boon Keng Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 7.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Clementi 308 Fried Chicken & Burger : simple Western fare

This stall used to be at Block 308 Clementi Avenue 4 for many years but they closed down due to the increase in rental. They were quite popular then and was known for their big serving size before moving to this coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio for about 2 years. The menu consists of the usual Western fare including fried chicken and burgers.

We were there on Sunday at 12.40 pm for lunch. The light of their signboard was still off. I went to the stall and asked, "How much longer to wait?" The lady boss answered from the back of the stall, "Another 20 minutes more." I went back at about 1 pm, the light of their signboard was still off. The lady boss recognized me, she said, "What is your order?" and I replied, "Chicken Cutlet ($5.50) and Chicken Chop ($5.50)." I left her with my table number. It was served in 5 minutes by the friendly lady boss, both orders came at the same time. 

The Chicken Cutlet was a massive piece, thinly sliced and perfectly deep-fried to the desired crispiness with no greasiness. It was accompanied with a bun, fries, coleslaw, and baked beans. The coleslaw was amongst the nicest that I have tried, it tasted fresh with a crunchy texture. 

The Chicken Chop also came with a bun, fries, coleslaw, and baked beans. It was nicely charred and served with brown sauce. 

My dining companion said, "This is a much better choice as compared to the other Western food stall in that coffee shop across the road. The portion is bigger and cheaper in price, tastier too."

Block 122 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 SINGAPORE 560122
Operating Hours: 12.30 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Thursdays)

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.