Monday, January 28, 2019

Blanco Court Fried Fish Noodles : the original stall from Blanco Court?

There used to be a stall serving fried fish soup at the Blanco Court that was demolished in 1997. Blanco Court used to be at the junction of Ophir Road and North Bridge Road where the Raffles Hospital is situated. There were some famous stalls there selling Kway Chap, Wanton Mee, Prawn Mee and more there,  a particular stall with the same stall name was one of the popular stalls there with a long queue. This stall used to be at the coffee shop just a few steps away before moving to this shop along Beach Road.

The queue started forming when I was there at about 11.30 pm. I ordered the smallest serving of Mixed Soup at $7 and there is also a larger portion at $10. There are also Steamed Fish Soup ($6/$10), Fried Fish Soup ($6/$10) and Fish Head Soup ($6/$10). There are also side dishes like Prawn Egg ($7), Fried Spinach ($7), Prawn Roll ($10), Fried Chicken Wing ($10), Deep-fried Batang Fish ($10) and Black Bean Fish Head Bitter Gourd ($15). You are expected to order at the counter and paying up as it is self-service then wait for your order there.

It was served with Sayur Manis, commonly known as mani cai and bits of the deep-fried egg together with the fried fish and sliced fish. Those fish tasted relatively fresh but were in small pieces, the portion was not quite substantial and the price is a little on the high side too. I am not certain this is the same stall from Blanco Court as it did not taste quite the same from what I remembered. 

325 Beach Road SINGAPORE 199566
Operating Hours: 9.30 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Potong Curry Rice . Porridge . Fish Head

There was still a queue even after 2 pm and I decided to join in. When it was my turn to order, I opted to have fried pork chop, curry chicken and stir-fried shark fish for $5.50. The choices were nothing fanciful, the taste was simple yet satisfying that reminded me of home.

Though not like the best tasting curry rice that I have tasted, I find comfort in it. 

Block 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-58 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre SINGAPORE 310210

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Madam Leong 板面 : Hakka-style Ban Mian

Vivian Leong, 43, started her stall in October 2015 in a coffee shop at Holland Close, serving Hakka-style ban mian. Ban Mian is a common noodle dish consisting of handmade noodles, served dry or in soup. She is a single mother with a teenage daughter. And, she decided to turn her passion for cooking into reality and making a living out of it, this has given her hope. Life has never been a bed of roses for her and at a certain point, she even contemplated the thought of ending her own life when she was left feeling depressed and abandoned after an unwanted divorce in 2012. She was jobless and penniless then but the pleading of her daughter brought her to her senses. She started working as a Kitchen Assistant before eventually opened her own stall after she met a kind owner of a coffee shop that offered her a stall with no deposit. She has recently moved her stall to Amoy Street Food Centre about 2 weeks ago.

I was greeted by the smiley Vivian. She actually looks much younger than her age. She asked, "What do you want to eat?" Her bubbliness was quite infectious. I pointed to the picture of the  Dry Chilli Ban Mian with a "Must Try" printed on it and said, "This. Can I add braised pork to it?" She said, "Can but not worth it." I asked, "Why?" She replied, "You have to pay an extra $2." I decided to order it. When she just started, there were only the soup and the dry ban mian but there are Mee Hoon Kueh (dry/soup) ($4/$5), Dry Chilli Ban Mian ($4.5/$5.50), Ban Mian ($4/$5), Braised Pork with Black Fungus ($5/$6) and Tom Yum Chicken Ban Mian ($5/$6) on the menu now.

While she was cooking, I asked, "Why did you move from Holland Close to here? The coffee shop is quite quiet, right? I used to stay around there." I also asked, "The business is much better here?" She smiled and said, "Much better. The queue is really long during lunch." I asked, "Why did you decide to start a stall in that coffee shop?" She said, "I used to stay at that block." I asked, "Where did you move to?" She answered, "I moved to Clementi." I said, "Why you did not move the stall there? That food centre is always crowded." She replied, "The rental is not cheap." I was surprised and asked, "I thought the rental would be equally expensive in this food centre. The rental should be more than $3,000?" she nodded. I said, "It is not easy to be a hawker, right?" She smiled and replied, "I am used to it and that is why I am always happy every day." I told her, "You have added me on Facebook lately." She asked, "Oh, What is your name? I have added a few friends recently." When she served the ban mian, she said, "Hope you enjoy it. Thank you, Cecilia"

Vivian is originated from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and moved to Singapore after she got married. Her ban mian is towards the Malaysia style and is different from the others here. She did not even serve it with an egg when she just started and will only add it in upon request as it is not common for ban mian to serve with egg in Malaysia. She is using a traditional recipe that passed down her mother. She is hoping to share it by cooking for her customers. The noodles are made fresh daily with no MSG or preservatives added.

She is still cooking with love and passion. When you do it with your heart, it just tasted different. Each bowl of lovingly cooked ban mian consists of a few pieces of braised meat, mushrooms, minced meat with a poached egg then garnished with dried shallots and ikan bilis, tossed with the dark soya sauce and the homemade sambal belachan. It has a home-cooked taste and the ingredients tasted fresh, the noodles were cooked well to the right firmness and springiness. It was served along with the special homemade sambal belachan.

Go support and try her ban mian if you happen to be in this food centre. 

7 Maxwell Road #02-109 Amoy Street Food Centre SINGAPORE 069111
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tong Tai Hainanese Scissors Curry Rice : homely feel

I was there for a late lunch and most of the dishes have already finished and even so, there was still a short queue, a few customers in front of me and another few customers right after. I went with whatever choices that were left. I opted for the fried pork chop, braised pork and also, the braised cabbage for just $4.00. The whole plate of rice was nicely drenched in curry gravy, exactly how I liked it. 

The braised pork was nicely cooked to desired softness. The thinly sliced breaded pork chop still retained a slight crisp and tasted tender. The braised cabbage was soft but not mushy. The curry sauce was a combination of 2 different types of sauces, it was rather thick and flavorful. It might not look like it but it was actually quite appetizing. All the dishes have a homely feel.

17 Upper Boon Keng Road #01-31 Upper Boon Keng Food Centre SINGAPORE 380017

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Hai Kee Seafood : comfort food

This was one of the stalls with a long queue during lunch on a weekday. Most of these customers were likely to be the office workers working nearby. Though the queue was quite long, it moved rather quickly. I did not wait for too long to order the 2 Combination Soup ($4.00) that listed as item number 6 on their signboard and I wanted it with rice ($0.50). I was asked to try this stall by a friend after I posted a review on another stall serving seafood soup at Eunos Crescent Food Centre. 

Most of the tables were taken up during lunch. As I was alone, I had to carry the tray and walked to the other end of the food centre to find a table. 

The 2 Combination Soup consists of sliced fish together with the fried ones and a generous amount of lettuce. The clear soup was lightly flavored and those slices of fish tasted relatively fresh, it went well with rice. I would likely eat it again when I am in the vicinity. 

Block 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-18 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh Food Centre SINGAPORE 310210

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hoy Yong Seafood Restaurant : one of the best Cze Cha places

This stall is manned by Chef Hoy Yong in his 60s and he is the disciple of one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Singapore, these were the titles given to 4 young talented chefs back in the 1970s by a local Chinese Culinary Institution. This stall has made it to the Top 50 World Street Food Masters list by Makansutra in June 2017. It is located in a coffee shop called Hup Koon Restaurant in Clementi Avenue 2, directly opposite the food centre. There are 3 must-try dishes on the menu, Fried Duck Roll, Pig Stomach Soup and Braised Pork Ribs. Some of the other dishes are uniquely created and you would not be able to find it elsewhere. 

Fried Hor Fun, is a common street food easily available at every cze cha stall. Even so, it is getting really difficult to find a plate of good hor fun these days. Their Egg Fried Hor Fun is strongly recommended and supposedly one of the best in Singapore. The Hor Fun here consists of nicely charred soft flat rice noodles soaked in thick gravy and served with ingredients like vegetable, prawns, sotong, slices of lean meat with a lot of beaten egg. I could actually smell the wok fragrance when my friend stirred it a little before scooping a portion of it. This is definitely one of the better Egg Fried Hor Fun that I have eaten unlike most of the others that have thin and not as flavorful gravy with almost tasteless flat rice noodles.

The deep-fried Duck Roll ($10) is quite an interesting eat. I wanted to order a larger portion but the friendly Auntie that was taking my order, asked, "For how many people?" I replied, "Just 4." She said, "Just 1 portion will do, it is more than enough." The duck was first deboned, leaving the skin on then pound it thinner before steaming it. It was then used it to roll up with minced pork, prawn, coriander, carrot and mushroom, dip it in the tempura batter before deep-frying it. My friends that tasted it for the first time, actually wowed by its flavor and texture, the exterior was crispy and still moist within. 

Braised Pork Ribs served in a pool of braised sauce accompanied by a few stalks of choy sum. I did not find it particularly impressive but my friends enjoyed it. The meat was tender and quite flavorful, the sauce was quite tasty, too.

Golden Bean Skin Roll tasted like the fried prawn roll from most of the dim sum stalls, it was served along with a saucer of mayonnaise. This was another enjoyable dish. 

French Bean with Dried Shrimp is another dish that we liked. We wanted to order the Bittergourd with Salted Egg but I was told it is not available on that day. The deep-fried french beans were served with a generous amount of dried shrimp with red-cut chilli. My friend tasted it and he said, "This is a good choice as it tasted really nice."

Mongolian Tofu came with a few pieces of beancurd beneath the pile of ingredients consisting bell pepper, basil leaves, diced chicken, onion, mushroom, and roasted peanuts. This is also one of the recommended dishes that we tried. It is indicated as a spicy dish on their menu but the level of spiciness was actually quite mild. We agreed that the sauce actually tasted like the curry sauce. My friend said, "The beancurd is really soft."

Pig Stomach Soup is a homely dish that my late Grandpa used to cook quite often and this particular dish reminded me of him. The auntie actually left it out and we waited but it did not serve. I went back to her and added it. The soup did not taste as peppery as expected. Other than a few big pieces of pig stomach, it also consists of chicken feet, canned whole mushroom, and fish maw with wolfberries. 

The waiting time could be really long if you come during their peak period. The prices here are very affordable as I paid only $86 for the all the dishes ordered. This is definitely one of the better cze cha places in Singapore.

Block 352 Clementi Avenue 2 #01-153 SINGAPORE 1200352
Operating Hours: 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm (Daily)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Mei Mei Roast : the alternative to Kay Lee Roast Meat

Madam Lee Kui In, 56, better known by her nickname, Mei Mei (妹妹), which means younger sister, is the younger sister of the founder of famous Kay Lee Roast Meat that sold their recipe for $4 million to Aztech Group in 2014. She used to work for Kay Lee Roast Meat for a good 15 years before starting this stall with her husband at the canteen in an industrial building more than a decade ago, serving old style Cantonese roast meats. 

I was there on the last day of 2018 for lunch. There was a regular customer came by to take away and another customer ordered half a roasted duck and $10 worth of roasted meat with 2 plates of rice. As it is not difficult to tell from their uniforms that these regular customers are wearing that they are mostly the mechanics working in the machine shops nearby. While ordering, I caught sight of an Apollo oven right behind the stall. I ordered a single serving of a roasted duck, roast pork and char siew ($7.00) with a plate of rice ($0.50). The friendly assistant asked, "Any soup?" and I went with a Lotus Root Soup ($4).

The Char Siew tasted like those from Kay Lee Roast Meat though not quite the same, it was nicely charred, not as dark in color, also not as sweet and sticky. It was actually quite good but my dining companion said, "After eating the Char Siew from Roast Paradise, most of the others just seemed so mediocre."

The duck came with a thin layer of skin, the meat did not have gamey taste and tasted quite flavorful. The roast pork had a good proportion of fat and lean meat, it tasted moist and with a slightly crisp skin.

The Lotus Root Soup consists of slices of lotus root, pork ribs with rice beans.

This was my first time came across these beans and actually wondered what are these. My dining companion said, "It looks like rice but tasted like beans." I posted the picture online and was told these are the rice beans, the Chinese name is 赤小豆, it supposed to have certain nutritional aspects. 

This stall is a good alternative to the Kay Lee Roast Meat as their standard is going south after setting up the central kitchen and opening of more outlets. I remember talking to KF Seetoh about their declining standard after the acquisition by Aztech Group and he said, "They should just stick to do what they are best in doing."

Block 3014 Ubi Road 1 #01-308 SINGAPORE 408702
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 5.00 pm (Mon to Fri) / 11.00 am to 3.00 pm (Sun & Public Holiday)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles : the alluring old school taste

Li Ruifang, 34, affectionately known as Hai Mee Soh (Prawn Mee Auntie), is the owner of this unassuming prawn mee stall at Tekka Food Centre. This stall opened on 1 January 2014 and has recently passed their 5th anniversary, it is one of the popular stalls in that food centre. It has been featured in the "Parts Unknown", a show by the late Anthony Bourdain. She is running the stall with the assistance of her parents. Ruifang, a university graduate, decided to leave the corporate world to start this stall as she is hoping to preserve the family recipe. His grandfather started selling pawn noodles in Whampoa in the 1950s before handing over to her father in the 1970s. Their original stall in Whampoa Food Centre is manned by her auntie. 

The preparation work starts as early as 2.30 am for about 2.5 hours before it is ready to serve the first bowl of prawn mee. And, she works averagely 15 hours per day. She insists in using only the sea-caught prawns like Ang Kar and Sua Lor as the farmed prawns would not have brought forth the same flavor. The broth is simmered for a relatively long timing using the pork bones and the shells of those peeled prawns. 

I was there on the first day of the new year and there were just another 2 customers in front of me. There are 3 different sizes for selection, the $4, $5 and $6. I decided to go with $5 for both orders. My dining companion opted for the yellow noodles. I went for a mixture of yellow noodles with kway teow and requested for an extra amount of chilli to go with it. 

The noodles were expertly cooked by the elderly Uncle before adding in slices of lean meat and few pieces of halved prawns and garnished with dried shallots and lard to serve. The spiciness of the chilli is toned down by the sweetness of the tomato sauce. I was asked whether I want it with tomato sauce when ordering earlier. A good bowl of prawn mee does not need premium ingredients like big prawns and even lobsters to truly stand out actually. This simple prawn mee is amongst the better ones that I enjoyed. 

The prawn broth though light but it was quite flavorful. The customer in front of me ordered 3 bowls of soup prawn mee. 

She has recently announced the change of the regular off-days from Wednesday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday in order to have more family time. 

665 Buffalo Road #01-326 Tekka Food Centre SINGAPORE 210665
Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 2.00 pm (Closed on Saturdays & Sundays)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Da Sheng Minced Pork Noodle : my old favorite Bak Chor Mee

Bai Yong Sheng, 36, the 4th generation owner, started helping out at his father's stall since 15 years old before eventually taking over the stall, using a recipe from his grandfather that used to operate a pushcart. They used to be at Plaza Singapura from 1997 to 2012 then moved to Block 739 Bedok Reservoir Road before moving to this canteen at Ubi Avenue 1 in May 2018. He is serving the traditional Teochew style Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle, commonly known as Bak Chor Mee. Black vinegar, braised mushroom sauce, and lard are used as part of the sauce mixture in his secret recipe. He is hoping to provide better Bak Chor Mee using quality ingredients as the current rental is lower. 

There was a short queue when I came for lunch on the last day of 2018. When it was my turn to order, I decided to go with Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle and I wanted it with Chicken Chop. The friendly lady boss asked, "Do you want the $4.50 or $5.50 bowl?" I asked, "What is the difference?" She replied, "The $5.50 portion is served with 2 fried dumplings." I went with the $5.50 selection. She also asked, "Do you want it with chilli?" As I will be sharing it with my dining companion and he could not handle spiciness so I asked, "Is it going to be really spicy?". She replied, "Not really for normal spiciness." I wanted to give her $10.50 as it stated that Chicken Chop is available at $5 as a side order. She said, "It is only $7.50. I do not think you can finish it so just an added-on option will be good enough." While waiting for my order, I said, "I used to be eating this regularly when it was still at Plaza Singapura." She smiled and said, "That was 7 years ago." Yong Sheng looked up while cooking the noodles and gave me a smile when he overheard it. I used to have it for lunch and even dinner when working near Plaza Singapura more than a decade ago.

The noodles were cooked well, serving with ingredients like minced meat, meatballs, liver, braised mushroom and 2 pieces of fried dumplings. The amount of black vinegar was not overpowering and the level of spiciness is quite acceptable. The fried dumplings were quite tasty, they replaced the water chestnuts with turnip, it did not have the crunchiness though there was still a slight sweetness. It can be ordered as a side dish in 10 pieces for $5. I actually liked the nicely seasoned chicken chop.

There are also Chicken Chop Noodle ($5.50), Fried Dumpling Noodle ($4.50/$5.50), Teochew Dumpling Soup ($4.50/$5.00) and Fishball Noodle ($4.00/$5.00) on their menu.

My dining companion tasted the lightly flavored soup and said, "This is better than the Lotus with Pork Ribs Soup from Mei Mei Roast." And, he actually finished the whole bowl of soup later. 

I am a big fan of Bak Chor Mee and this is definitely one of the better bowls of Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle. 

Block 3014 Ubi Road 1 SINGAPORE 408702
Operating Hours: 6.45 am to 3.30 pm (Closed on Sundays)