Friday, March 29, 2019

Hock Kee Fried Kway Teow : the decades-old flavor

Ah Song, 66, the owner, has been frying kway teow for more than 4 decades after taking over the stall from his mother-in-law that started it from a pushcart in the 60s' along Maude Road. This stall used to be in a coffee shop at Maude Road for about 20 years then moved to Syed Alwi Road in November 2015 before moving to Berseh Food Centre in March 2018. 

There are 3 sizes, from the smallest at $3 to medium at $3.50 and the largest at $4.00. There was another customer in front of me. I decided to go with the $4 portion and waited in front of the stall. Uncle asked, "Do you want chilli?" I replied, "Yes." As I will be sharing with my dining companion so I said, "Just a bit of chilli." It was still a little too spicy for him. He said, "I did not taste much of the wok flavor and there did not seem to have any lard. It would definitely be nicer if there are some bits of crispy lard." He added, "It is still a good plate of fried kway teow, much better than some of the mediocre ones." 

Nonetheless, it has an alluring old-school flavor with ingredients like slices of fishcake, cockles, Chinese sausage, and egg. It was fried well to the desired texture, which was drier, more savory and less sweet. 

166 Jalan Berseh #01-16 Berseh Food Centre SINGAPORE 208877
Operating Hours: 2.00 pm to 11.00 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hor Fun Premium : Beef horfun

I was there for an early dinner, the food centre was quite quiet at that time and most of the stalls have already closed and I was left with limited choices. This was one of the stalls that got a short queue and the other one was Hong Kong Yummy Soup that was awarded a Bib Gourmand distinction in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018.

After some thoughts, I decided to have horfun, it is my kind of comfort food. It is getting difficult to find a really good one these days. I joined in the queue without realising that those customers in front of me have already ordered. The uncle saw me, he looked towards my direction and was waiting for my order. I told him that I wanted to have Beef Horfun ($4.50). There are also choices of Mixed Horfun / Mui Fan ($4.50) and Sliced Fish Horfun / Mui Fan ($4.50) together with Pork Ribs Rice ($4.50), Ginger & Spring Onion Beef / Chicken ($4.50) and Prawn Paste Chicken ($8/$10/$12). 

There was a smokiness amidst the nicely charred horfun came with ingredients like sliced beef and greens in eggy gravy that was not too starchy nor too watery. It was good though not exceptionally so I would think it is still better than most out there.

I ordered my favorite avocado shake from Mr Avocado Exotic Fruit Juice to go along with it.

120 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-78 Alexandra Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 150120
Operating Hours: 10.30 am to 2.30 pm / 5 to 8.30 pm (Daily)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Wok In Burger : taste the Kungfu burgers

Paul Liew, 37, and Wayne Liew, 34, have recently started Wok In Burger, a stall at their father's coffee shop after getting approval from Mr Liew Choy, 65 who is still overseeing the operation of Keng Eng Kee Seafood. It is also known as KEK Seafood, a family restaurant in Alexandra Village. They are known to serve old classic items like Chilli Crabs, Salted Egg Stong, Coffee Pork Ribs, Moonlight Horfun and more. Wayne is the third-generation head chef of Keng Eng Kee Seafood. The stall name alludes to tossing and stir-fried in a wok just like what it is usually done in a traditional zichar stall before serving in between the burger buns and presented in wok-shaped platters. Such an effort of incorporating Asian elements into Western dishes to showcase zichar dishes and transforming it into burgers is definitely commendable. Wayne started by making these zichar-inspired burgers for staff meal before eventually featured them as Wok Hei Burgers as part of the side menu at their now-defunct outlet at Pandan Garden, it was closed last August after the lease was up.

The menu consists of the 7 types of Kungfu Burgers with pasta dishes, rice sets, sides, and drinks. This is not fast food as everything is made from scratch, the recipes and the cooking methods are the same as that of the Zichar stall. The order has to be placed at the counter and a buzzer will be given for collection. All burger orders come with fries, coleslaw, and a water chestnut drink with the option to top up $1 for Lime Fizz cordial or $2 for a Root Beer Float. There is also an option to add a sunny-side up egg for $1. There were 4 of us and we ordered 2 sets of Chilli Soft Shell Crab Burger, a set of Salted Egg Sotong "Blur"ger and a set of Marmite Pork Burger.

Their signature Chilli Soft Shell Crab ($15) is a must order. The soft shell crab was battered in thin batter then deep-fried before sandwiched in the sesame buns accompanied by a brunch of thinly julienned purple cabbage, cucumber, and lettuce. 

It was served along with a saucer of chilli crab sauce together with hand-cut fries and coleslaw. The sesame buns are buttered and toasted for crispier texture but still fluffy within. The sauce is supposed to be poured on the fried soft shell crab and eat it together. The sauce had a good balance of sweetness, spiciness and sourish.

Salted Egg Sotong "Blur"ger ($9.80) is an interesting choice. The squid rings were fried over a high fire for the desired crunchiness and softness, it was tossed in the wok with the salted egg sauce then sandwiched between the sesame buns with thinly julienned purple cabbage, cucumber, and lettuce. 

The salted egg sauce is made from scratch consisting of a blend of sweet and savory flavors that further accented by the curry leaves. It is served with hand-cut fries and coleslaw. There is also the choices of chicken and pork for this burger. This has to be the best salted egg burger that I have eaten so far. The hand-cut fries were lightly salted, slightly crisp and still soft within. The coleslaw provides a refreshing twist. 

My friend that was having the Marmite Pork Burger said, "I did not expect the meat to be so soft." She also said, "The fries are also very nice." I was telling her that, "They have the skills after running the Zichar stall for quite a while to actually infuse the familiar flavors to these burgers."

This is likely to be the only place for such hearty burgers with the familiar local flavors and it is definitely worth a try. 

Block 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-136 SINGAPORE 150121
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm / 5.30 pm to 10 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Milah Hokkaido Curry Puff at Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre

My dining companion told me about this stall after he went walking around the food centre. He said, "There is an interesting curry puff located at that corner." I decided to go check it out. When I was there, the "Hokkaido Curry Puff" on the signboard actually caught my attention. They are using 100% "Wonderful Traded Flour" from Hokkaido as indicated on their signboard. This is a halal stall owned by a Malay owner.

The friendly owner spotted me and he asked, "Any curry puff for you?" I asked, "What exactly is Hokkaido Curry Puff?" He pointed at the paper bag that has "Tokachi Mill Factory" printed on it together with some Japanese characters and said, "I am using the flour from Hokkaido to make all these curry puffs." He added, "There are different flavors ranging from the usual potato and sardine to cheese potato and mentaiko cheese potato." I asked, "How long have you been running this stall?" He answered, "We have been around for about 7 months." It is 1 piece for $1.20 or 3 pieces for $3.00. I decided to get one of each of the remaining flavors for a total of $4.20. 

We tried the sardine flavor and the potato flavor first, it actually tasted just like the usual curry puffs from the Malay stalls. We then tried the mentaiko cheese potato, it did not have the taste of mentaiko though we could actually see it amongst the filling. And, the cheese potato flavor did not have the taste of cheese in it. My dining companion said, "Though they claimed to use flour from Hokkaido, I could not quite tell the difference. It did not seem to have much effect in enhancing the texture of those puffs."

The size of these curry puffs is quite small. 

The owner seems to be passionate enough to keep this stall going and perhaps, give it more time and it will get better. 

31 Commonwealth Crescent #02-64 Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre SINGAPORE 149644
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm (Mon to Fri) / 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (Sat & Sun)
(Closed on Thursdays)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

黄大福 : cheap & good Bak Chor Mee

I did not manage to ask for the name of this young owner but I know that his name is not 黄大福, the name of this stall. I seated right in front of his stall while waiting for my burgers to be ready and I took notice of the constant queue there. Most of these customers seem to be the regulars, there was even a caucasian man ordered his Bak Chor Mee. I decided to try it.

I decided to order Bak Chor Mee and added $1 for extra ingredients. While waiting for my order to be ready, I said, "I somewhat could not quite associate the Chinese stall name with a young man cooking at the stall." I asked, "Did you happen to take over the stall from your father?" The young owner replied, "黄大福 is not my name. I balloted this stall. I decided to use  as the stall name as this is the name of the person that taught me how to cook the noodles." The young owner actually reminded me of Douglas Ng that operates Fishball Story, the Fishball Noodle was really good when he just started at Golden Mile Food Centre but not so now. 

I also said, "A basic bowl at $2.70 is cheaper than most of the other stalls." He replied, "There are many elderly folks in this estate so I cannot afford to set the prices too high." He continued to say, "There are also other stalls in this food centre selling at this price. There is a Chicken Rice stall behind selling at $2.50 per plate and also a dessert stall selling desserts at $1.00 per bowl." He said, "My stall used to be next to the dessert stall When I first started. The elderly owner has quite an attitude. She will snap at the customers when they ask her for cold desserts." I asked, "How long have you been in this food centre?" He replied, "About 3 years already."

It consists of a good portion of mee pok with liver and lean meat with minced meat together with meatballs. The pork liver was cooked just right, those pieces were thinly sliced in big pieces. The lard is available in a container at the stall for self-service. I helped myself with a big spoonful of those bits of crispy lard, it was tasty and not oily. I tossed the mee pok to mix it with the sauce beneath. 

The first mouthful wowed me. The mee pok was perfectly cooked to the right texture, with just the right balance of chilli sauce, and vinegar added. This bowl of Bak Chor Mee is easily amongst the best that I have eaten. This is even better than some of those popular ones out there.

The accompanying soup was lightly flavored with a hint of fresh pork.

I went back to the stall and tell the young owner that, "I am a big fan of Bak Chor Mee and your Bak Chor Mee is really nice." He smiled and said, "Come back more often then. We open on every day." This Bak Chor Mee is a new found favorite.

31 Commonwealth Crescent #02-93 Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre SINGAPORE 149644
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm (Daily)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Triio's Corner : Pork Burger, worth a try

We were there for lunch on a Sunday. We decided to try the Pork Burger ($6.50) and Chicken Burger ($5.50). Luke was there, manning the stall all by himself. He sent the food over when it was ready. He came over and joined us at the table later. He asked, "You are a food blogger? I saw you taking pictures." I nodded my head and said, "I have a food blog."

He told us that he is working with his friends and they are his bosses. He asked, "How was the food?" My dining companion replied, "I think a bit too much sauce. You could not really taste the flavor of the patty. The pork patty is actually quite nice though." Luke told us that mayonnaise is used and the other sauce is their homemade honey sauce. Luke said, "Some customers actually preferred to have it with more sauce so it is a little difficult on our part." 

I said, "Pork Burger is not too common in Singapore." Luke replied, "Actually not many know that we serve Pork Burger." He pointed at the standing banner outside the coffee shop and said, "Our friends suggested we should make a banner to promote the Pork Burger." I also said, "The food presentation is impressive." And, Luke replied, "We managed to get those trays online and they even provide the engraving of our stall name for free. The previous owner actually left us some plates which we did not like."

I asked, "There is no beef burger here?" He replied, "We have actually working on the beef burger but have yet to launch it." He also said, "There are another 2 Western food stalls in the food centre so business here is quite competitive. But we have been around for about 1 year and it has been sustainable so far." He also mentioned, "We have very little control of the quality of the burger buns as we get them from the supplier, it can be inconsistent at times."

I said, "Paying $4.50 for an extra patty is a little on the high side but again, the rental in the coffee shop is usually higher as compared to running a stall in the hawker centre." Luke said, "We usually recommend to go for the double patties as you could actually taste the flavor better." He also said, "We actually made everything from scratch and we could only make so many at one time, it is very much for the efforts rendered." 

He mentioned, "We are in the midst to revamp the menu. We might replace the baked beans and garlic bread with rice. We might also reduce the prices further to make it more affordable." My dining companion said, "The pricing is reasonable and the portion is quite filling too." Luke said, "Our Chicken Cutlet is quite popular and its size is actually bigger than my face."

Their burgers might not be amongst the best that I have eaten but I could taste the sincerity amidst these.

Block 19 Toa Payoh Lorong 7 #01-264 SINGAPORE 310019
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Fu Gui : worth trying Fishball Noodle

A friend told me about this stall at Empress Road Food Centre. I was there at about 11.30 am and there was a short queue. The owner has just reopened his stall after completed his reservist training. While queuing, he raised his voice and said, "The mee pok and mee kia have finished already." The customer in front of me wanted mee pok but there was not enough so he decided to have it with mee tai mak. It reminded me of the elderly owner of the already closed Sembawang Teochew Minced Pork Noodle at Sembawang Hills Food Centre. He ever told his customer that wanted to mix mee pok with mee tai mak, the texture of both noodles is different so it is not advisable to mix them together. After the customer left, he said to me, "I would not want to cook something that is not nice."

When it was my turn to order, I said, "The small portion of Minced Meat Noodle." There are 2 sizes, the smaller portion for $3 and the larger portion for $4. I opted to have it with yellow noodles and wanted to add fish dumplings to it but I was told that the fish dumplings have finished. While waiting, I asked, "How long have you been in this food centre?" He said, "About a year or so." I did not take notice of his stall when I was there for the stewed duck about 5 months ago. I was told that it is quite unusual for most of the noodles to run out at 11.30 am. And, I said, "Maybe your customers missed your noodles too much so die-die-must-eat today." He laughed. He asked the customer after me, "I thought you were just here this morning?" 

I asked for an extra amount of chilli to be added. He asked, "Extra chilli?" I nodded my head and replied, "Is it going to be very spicy?" He said, "Not too spicy but maybe a little saltish." He was right. The level of spiciness is quite manageable. It was served with a good portion of noodles with minced meat, fishballs, and slices of fishcake then garnished with chopped spring onions, ikan belis, and lard. I tossed the yellow noodles lightly to mix it well with the chilli and an enjoyable bowl of Fishball Noodle awaits. Though it is listed as Minced Meat Noodle on the signboard, it is actually more like Fishball Noodle. 

The stall closes at about 1.30 pm as the food centre is usually quiet after lunch hour on weekdays. 

7 Empress Road #01-100 Empress Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 260007
Operating Hours: 7.30 am to 1.30 pm

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hammee's : a Cheeseburger experience

Kelvin Hong, 31 and Vivian Tan, 25, this young couple is the owners of this unassuming stall serving only burgers which opened on 29 November 2018. They used to sell white bee hoon at another hawker centre prior to opening this stall. Their menu is simple, consisting of their signature Cheeseburger for $6 and a Double Cheeseburger for $8 with an option to add smoked bacon for $2. They have recently introduced a premium burger that consists of a thicker patty with lettuce and tomato. There is also Chicken Burger with an option to between the original flavor and the spicy flavor. Each order of burger is served with fries. They used to serve wings and waffles but have since stopped doing so. 

I was there at about 12.30 pm and there was just another customer in front of me. Vivian was there to take the order. I decided to go with Double Cheeseburger ($8.00) and added smoked bacon ($2.00) together with the original flavor Chicken Burger ($5.50). I was told to come back 30 minutes later with the wooden clip that has got a number on it for collection. While waiting, there was a delivery guy sending over a few boxes of burger buns from Bakery Artisan Original (BAO) followed by another guy delivery a box of Cowhead cheddar cheese. We happened to seat right in front of the stall. Vivian came over to check our number. She served the Chicken Burger first. She said, "The Double Cheeseburger is coming up soon." She sent it over about 5 minutes later. 

Chicken Burger though did not taste as memorable as the Cheeseburger but it was still pretty good. The chicken thigh is pounded using a meat mallet and marinate overnight to infuse the flavor before deep-frying. It was served with the homemade coleslaw and their special sauce, sandwiched between the buttered and toasted buns. 

The well-seasoned chicken patty was fried well to the ideal crispy state. The homemade coleslaw added textural contrast and also a refreshing twist. The fries though lightly sprinkled but it did not have much flavor. 

The beef patty is handmade with a combination of chuck, brisket, and short rib for a good leanness-to-fat ratio. It was then grilled to the desired doneness before serving on the buttered and toasted buns together with their special sauce, caramelized onions, pickled jalapeno, melted cheese, and grilled bacon. Beef tallow is added in the cooking process to giving it the flavor.

I asked my dining companion, "How is this Cheeseburger in comparison to the In-N-Out Burger?" And, he replied, "This is good even though the In-N-Out Burger is slightly superior in taste as their thick cheddar cheese is giving its more flavor." He continued to say, ""Their buns are much better than those used by the In-N-Out Burger though." The buns have a desirable softness and toasted well to have a slight crisp on its surface. 

This Cheeseburger is making the taste of In-N-Out Burger so forgettable. Their burgers are comfy food that is free of artificial preservatives. Burgs, a Muslim owned burger specialty stall at Golden Mile Food Centre with their other stall at Viva Business Park is another cheap and good burger to try. 

31 Commonwealth Crescent #02-93 Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre SINGAPORE 149644
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 5.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Friday, March 8, 2019

In-N-Out Burger's pop-up in Singapore

I went to the In-N-Out Burger's pop-up held at Columbus Coffee Co, a local cafe along Upper Thomson Road. And, I actually waited close to 2 hours starting from 9.50 am to eventually get my burger. The first in the queue was there since 6.30 am for this 3-hour pop-up event. In-N-Out Burger is a popular brand in Los Angeles, USA and this was their third pop-up in Singapore so far. The first was at Golden Grill restaurant at Boat Quay in 2012 and the second was at Timbre at Gillman Barracks in 2014. 

We were greeted by a snaking queue right outside the cafe that stretched along the walkway and extended all the way to the coffee shop at the corner. Each customer is only allowed to purchase one burger. Their staff was giving out the plastic wrist tags in colors of gold, red, silver and yellow while we were in the queue and a total of 320 were given out. The portion that has "BURGER" was then torn off when waiting in the queue to order, this is likely to prevent reordering. 

The counter was decorated with wallpaper that has its registered iconic palm-tree trademark. We were given a commemorative keychain upon entering the cafe. We were to order at the counter. The menu consists of Hamburger ($3), Cheeseburger ($4) and the Double-Double ($5). The T-shirts were available for $ 4 each. They started serving as early as 10.00 am though it officially starts at 11.00 am. The customers enter into the cafe in the batches of 5 pax each time. 

Eric Billings, the In-N-Out's Manager of Special Foreign Events was there, interacting with the customers. They can do just 300 burgers in 3 hours without compromising on the quality. There were 3 chefs flew in to train the staff in making the beef patties and assembling burgers with ingredients like slices of cheddar cheese and buns that were bought in from the US. Their burgers are famous for freshly handmade patties made using US ground chuck beef. 

It was served with a portion of salt & vinegar chips and a soft drink at $7 per set with the Double-Double burger, slightly cheaper than their pricing in the USA. An order number was given on the receipt and it was delivered to the table by service staff. 

After queueing for close to 2 hours, the Double-Double is the obvious choice. I opted for the Animal Style that was served with double grilled hamburger patties and double slices of thick cheddar cheese sandwiched between buns with pickles, caramelized onion, pickled radish, lettuce, and tomato with their special sauce called "spread", consisting of Thousand Island dressing.

The burger was good though not quite as good as Shake Shack, which is still my favorite choice but it is definitely better than the Fatburger and other fast food restaurants in Singapore. I would think that the standard at this pop-up was supposedly higher as compared to their day-to-day operations over in the USA. 

Apparently, there is no plan for In-N-Out Burger to actually open a permanent restaurant in Singapore. Their outlets are all located on the west coast of the USA as they have yet to venture overseas. The good news is Shack Shake is planning to open its first store at Jewel Changi in Singapore tentatively next month.  Meanwhile, I am still waiting to find out how much longer would the Fatburger that has 2 outlets in Singapore will be sustaining. It was a good experience after all but I doubt I would want to queue that long for a bugger again if there is another pop-up maybe a few years later.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Woodlands Centre BBQ Fish at Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre

This stall used to be known as Hoe Heng BBQ Fish and was at the Woodlands Centre Food Centre for about 18 years before moving to the current location. I decided to go with the smaller portion of BBQ Stingray at $10 and the smallest portion of Sambal Sotong at $12 with 2 plates of rice at $1 each. After paying, the boss said, "Go and take a seat. We will serve it to your table." We waited for about 15 minutes or so before receiving the Sambal Sotong followed by 2 plates of rice and the BBQ Stingray was delivered a few minutes later.

The Sambal Sotong stir-fried with shredded onion and served on the banana leaf. Its level of spiciness is quite manageable to my dining companion that has little tolerance for spicy food.

My dining companion looked at the BBQ Stingray and said, "This is the smallest piece of BBQ Stingray that I came across for about the same price." He said, "It tasted nice but the portion is really too small and it is just not quite worth the value." The portion consists of 2 small slices of fish with sambal chili and garnished with slices of red onion.

It was unexpectedly quiet during dinner at that hawker centre.

4 Woodlands Street 12 #01-58 Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 738623
Operating Hours: 3.30 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)