Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lam Bee Chicken Rice at Macpherson

The coffee shop has undergone a renovation then changed its name from Lam Bee Restaraunt to Grains and Hops. I used to patronize a pizza stall in this coffee shop quite regularly but have stopped doing so after the closure of that stall. I tried the chicken rice once quite a while ago but it did not leave much impression. A friend on Facebook recommended the chicken rice from this stall as he is a regular customer. I decided to give it a go when came for the Fish Minced Meat Noodle nearby. 

I ordered the mixture of their poached and roasted chicken with rice to go along with an old cucumber pork ribs soup. My dining companion tasted it and said, "It tasted just normal, in fact, I actually prefer the other chicken rice in Bishan." I tried both and actually prefer the poached chicken to the roasted one. I could actually taste the fragrance and juiciness of the chicken. I do not think much of the chilli, it just did not taste too special to be memorable. 

The rice though grainy and not greasy, it was lacking in flavor. 

Perhaps it was still early, the soup did not have enough time to simmer so the taste was not as flavorful as I liked it to be. 

This stall is a popular choice amongst the residents though not the best chicken rice but it is comforting enough.

78 Circuit Road #01-470 SINGAPORE 370078
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 7.00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kalsom Kuih Muih Curry Puff at Yishun Park Hawker Centre

Zaidi Zainal and Kalsom Kamis, his wife, have been running a stall at Yishun Park Hawker Centre for over a year. This stall was in the news when 6 youths stole $1,064 from the cash register. That sum is equivalent to selling 600 pieces of those handmade curry puffs. The couple was forced to raise the prices of each curry from $1.20 to $1.50 trying to recoup the losses. 

I ordered the Curry Puff and Sardine Puff, the size is bigger than the usual puffs out there. 

My dining companion tried both and said, "I would prefer the Curry Puff to Sardine Puff. The Sardine Puff is too tomato-ish and with too much onion." 

I would also prefer the Curry Puff a bit more. It consists of a generous amount of potato with a piece of a boiled egg at the right level of spiciness.

51 Yishun Avenue 11 #01-01 Yishun Park Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 768867
Operating Hours: 2.00 pm to 8.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Friday, August 23, 2019

An Dessert : a new dessert stall at Sembawang Hills Food Centre

This is one of the newest stalls in this food centre manned by a mother and daughter team. They have been around for slightly more than a month. I decided to order a Chendol after finished a plate of Beef Horfun from the other new stall in this food centre. While waiting, I chatted with the mother. She saw me taking a picture of their stall and asked, "Do you think you can tell others about our stall?" I replied, "I will tell my friends and ask them to support."

She said, "The business is slow, we are just getting by. The rental itself is already $3,000 and the cleaning fee is $450, there is also the utility bill that we have to pay." She continued to say, "If the business is so good then why would the previous stall decided to quit after been here for more than 20 years?" She was referring to the fish soup stall that has been around for a long while and there was usually a queue during lunch. She also said, "We woke up early and took long hours in doing preparation. Almost everything is handmade at the stall. "

The Chendol is priced at $2 each. It is served in a nice plastic bowl with a metal spoon. The coconut milk is thick and creamy, served with Gula Melaka together with red beans and those droplets of green rice flour jellies. The level of sweetness was well-balanced but I actually prefer to have it slightly sweeter. It would be perfect if the shaved ice is finer and smoother. 

This is not the best Chendol that I have tried so far but it is good enough to taste the amount of effort in making it. 

590 Upper Thomson Road #01-36 Sembawang Hills Food Centre SINGAPORE 574419
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Xiang Jiang Soya Sauce Chicken : Shrimp Dumpling is nice

The owner used to work in the Raffles Hotel before starting a stall in Jit Poh Building at Keppel Road and relocating to Alexandra Village Food Centre. This has always been one of the popular stalls that have a queue even during the off-peak period, serving Hong Kong-style Soya Sauce Chicken. There are also Shrimp Wanton and Shrimp Dumpling to go with rice or noodles. 

The queue was long when I was there with my dining companion for lunch. He joined in the queue and waited for about 20 minutes before getting to order. He was supposed to order the Chicken Drumstick Noodle ($5.00) and Shrimp Dumpling Soup ($4.50) but decided to take away a half portion of the Soya Sauce Chicken after queued up for so long. The Shrimp Dumpling was sold out right after he ordered. 

To start, lightly tossed the noodles with the braised sauce underneath and mixed it with the chilli. It was not bad but not as memorable as some of the other Soya Sauce Chicken that I have tried. The braised sauce was slightly salty and not as fragrant as I liked it to be. 

I enjoyed the Shrimp Dumpling though. The massive dumpling consists of a whole piece of prawn each together with minced meat, black fungus, and bits of water chestnut. 

It is usually sold out before 2 pm.

120 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-77 Alexandra Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 150120
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 2.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dover Road Kai Kee Wanton Noodle : the old-fashioned taste

This stall started at the now-defunct Dover Road Market, near to the Fairfield Methodist School before moving to Alexandra Village Food Centre in 2011. It has been around for more than 3 decades, serving old-school wanton mee. The menu includes the Wanton Mee, Dumpling Mee, Shredded Chicken Mee, Wanton Soup and Dumpling Soup at $3.00/$3.50. I decided to order the larger portion of Wanton Mee ($3.50) and added $1 for extra wanton and $1 for dumpling, serving along with slices of chae siew and some leafy greens. 

My dining companion said, "I do not like it. I prefer Cai Ji Wanton Mee at Bishan. And, I prefer the dumpling to wanton." The wantons were like the old-school type, the lightly seasoned filling was loosely encased in a wrapper. The dumplings tasted about the same but bigger in the size. I did not like the char siew much, it was too lean and slightly dry. The noodles were nicely cooked to the desired springiness and served in the concoction of oyster sauce, sesame oil, lard oil, and chilli. 

It somewhat reminded me of the wanton mee from Nam Seng Noodle House at Far East Square that used to be at the front of the old National Library. The lightly flavored soup was mainly just the taste of soy sauce and pepper, garnished with chopped spring onion. 

This is a simple, old-school tasting wanton mee that brought forth the nostalgic taste of the yesteryear. 

120 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-09 Alexandra Village Food Centre SINGAPORE 150120
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 4.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Kang Kar No 1 Noodles : Fish Bak Chor Mee

The shop is tucked away in a corner of Macpherson. This is a concept store by Niwa Sushi Pte Ltd, a member of Neo Group Limited launched in November 2015. Amongst the others on the menu, their signature items are the Spicy Minced Fish Noodles and Minced Fish Noodle Soup. The fresh minced fish is used to replace the usual minced pork in this most loved hawker dish. There are also other ingredients like mushroom cubes and fishballs then topped with chopped spring onions in the original shrimp paste or the spicy shrimp paste with black vinegar. They might be the only one that is serving the minced fish version of Bak Chor Mee in Singapore and it is supposed to be a healthier choice as compared to minced meat as mentioned on their Facebook. 

I wanted to order it with Kway Teow but was told that it is not available so it is a choice between Mee Pok or Mee Kia. I decided to go with Mee Pok for both the spicy flavor and also the original flavor that I ordered for my dining companion. There are choices of $2.50 and $3.50 and I decided to go with the larger portion for both orders. It is served with a bowl of soup that consists of 3 fishballs. I also ordered a piece of the Leek Fishcake ($1.50) to share.

I also ordered an Iced Coffee to go along.

My dining companion ate a piece of the Leek Fishcake and said, "It tasted quite normal, not too special."

I asked my dining companion, "Could you actually taste the familiarity in those fishballs?" He nodded. I told him that those are actually DoDo fishballs. He replied, "No wonder the taste is so familiar." The fishballs were rather light in taste but it has the desired bounciness. 

The texture of those minced fish was much softer as compared to the minced meat. My dining companion said, "I would give it a 3.5 out of 5. It is actually not too bad but I would still prefer my usual Bak Chor Mee."

I asked for an extra amount of chilli to be added to my bowl of noodles and I could actually taste the spiciness. I might like it a bit more if I did not adjust its level of spiciness. 

It is worth a try if you happen to be in the vicinity.

Block 77 Circuit Road #01-450 SINGAPORE 370077
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Eng's Char Siew Wanton Mee : Ah Ching's Claypot Rice

Chong Hoi Ching, also known as Ah Ching helms the claypot rice at this outlet in East Village is a familiar face to those that have been patronizing the popular Geylang Claypot Rice. He was their former head chef and was with them for over 20 years before starting out on his own. He used to run a stall in Toa Payoh then moved to Bedok South before moving to the current location after securing the franchise of Eng's since last November.

He is still cooking the way he knows how to do so all these decades. He still insists on using the old grains of a specific grade and quality for a roasted aroma which attributed to the golden brown burnt at the bottom, the distinction of a good claypot rice. The rice was half-cooked on the stove before adding the ingredients and finishing off on the charcoal fire, it is all about good control of heat to ensure it is cooked evenly without getting it burnt. There are a few factors like the type of grains, the type of claypots and the control of the fire that determine a good claypot rice.

I asked, "How long is the waiting time for the claypot rice?" The waiting staff answered, "About 30 minutes. We cook them upon order." I ordered the medium portion at $13 to share with my dining companion. There are 3 sizes, the small portion at $7, the medium at $13 and the large at $23. I did not order the wanton mee nor other zi char dishes. A lady approached the table next to us and ask, "How was the claypot rice?" Those seemed to be their regular customers as they shared some positive feedback.

While waiting, there were other customers came for their claypot rice and some have called earlier to order. We waited for about 20 minutes for it to be served. The waiting staff asked, "How much do you want the dark sauce to be added? Some people do not like and they just want a bit of it. Is normal good for you." I nodded. She then started to add in the thick caramel dark sauce and rapidly mixing it with the rice and ingredients using a big metal spoon.

It was served with ingredients like Chinese sausage, salted fish, chicken chunks and greens. The texture of the chicken chunks was smooth and there was also taste bits of mashed salted fish in the rice. It was flavorful enough to eat it without the sambal chilli though and the smokiness could be detected amidst it. There was a nice crispy layer at the bottom of the claypot which I did not know how to appreciate.

The tip is to call to order the claypot rice in advance to avoid the waiting time. 

430 Upper Changi Road #01-09 East Village SINGAPORE 487048
Operating Hours: 8.00 am to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lao Zhong Zhong Five Spice : it just did not taste as good as it used to be

I went for the Prawn Mee at River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles on a Sunday and decided to drop by thereafter. I was told that their standard has dropped. I used to see Tan Kee Kwang, the elderly owner, at the stall but I did not see him this time. He started helping his father at the roadside stall outside the old Thong Chai Medical Hall at 11 years old in the 1950s. They moved to a few locations before settling at the current location in 2008. 

All the 14 items are supposed to be handmade at the stall. I ordered just a few items including their signature Water Chestnut Cake, Ngor Hiang, Prawn Fritter with Tofu, Prawn Roll and Fried Spring Roll. I was asked to give the table number. It was brought over by a friendly auntie that offered to bring us another pair of chopsticks together with the chilli sauce. The chilli sauce was topped with crushed peanuts and the chopped onion with a mild spiciness. 

My dining companion said, "The Water Chestnut Cake and Ngor Hiang are still good, the rest tasted just so so." I only liked the Ngor Hiang. I felt, in my humble opinion, it is not as good as it used to be.

29 Tai Thong Crescent SINGAPORE 347858
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 12.00 am (Closed on Mondays & Wednesdays)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Baba Peranakan : comfort food

Edwin Tan, 61, the owner, used to be working as a chef in the hotel industry for about 20 years before starting this stall a decade ago. He started cooking at the tender age of 12, using the recipes by his mother and his grandmother for Nonya dishes. He is serving tasty and comforting Nonya fare at this stall that tucked away at the corner of this popular food centre. I was there about 11 am but there was already a queue. Most of them are regular customers and I am one of them. Some of my usual choices are Ayam Goreng, Sayur Lemak, and Onion Omelette. These dishes are usually cooked in a small portion to ensure its freshness. 

The Ayam Goreng ($3) came in a piece of perfectly deep-fried chicken drumstick and it is my usual favorite. The chicken is well-seasoned with chilli, curry powder, ginger, and shallots for 5 hours before cooking. The Onion Omelette consists of egg, onion, spring onion and chilli for a good portion at just $1. Sayur Lemak is a vegetable curry, the main ingredients are cabbage and slices of fried taupok. It was then cooked well to the desired tenderness and served in the light but tasty gravy. Another comforting dish that I will order is the canned Sardine in tomato sauce, a homely dish that my late Grandpa used to cook for me.

335 Smith Street #02-225 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 1.30 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe at Toa Payoh North

Jeremey Tan, 37, the owner is running the stall with his wife. We went on a Sunday, the coffee shop was really quiet and there was just another table ordered some dishes from the stall. While looking at the menu board, I was greeted by the wife. I decided to go ahead with ordering the Chao Tah Bee Hoon ($6) and Chye Poh Hor Fun ($5). Both dishes were served at the same time. 

Chao Tah Bee Hoon, the "burnt" bee hoon, was a little disappointing. I could not actually taste the wok fragrance nor the smokiness though the pile of bee hoon was nicely charred. There were pieces of prawn, sotong and bits of fried lard embedded within. The first impression was that the bee hoon though dry, it did not taste as crispy as it was expected to be. The underneath of the bee hoon was quite greasy, it was a little overwhelming after a few mouthfuls. 

Chye Poh Hor Fun, a Teochew classic, did not fare too well though slightly better. The wide rice noodles were nicely stir-fried but not enough to infuse the charred flavor. The taste of chye poh (preserved radish) was not too distinctive, it would be nicer if they added a bit more chye poh and less greasy. There were other ingredients like egg, bean sprouts, and greens.

Block 203 Toa Payoh North #01-1097 SINGAPORE 310203
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 2.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 10.30 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Cai Ji Wanton Mee : old-school delight

I was there for lunch on a weekday. This coffee shop was not as crowded as it is nestled in a neighborhood estate and most of the diners are the residents staying in the vicinity. A friend recommended this particular Wanton Mee that has been around for more than 30 years. The current owner took over when the original owner wanted to retire, using the same recipes to keep it going since then. 

Their signature Wanton Mee ($3) is the most popular item so I ordered it. There was no more mee pok so I went with the mee kia. I decided to add extra wanton. The Uncle asked, "The fried or the soup one?" I replied, "Both. I came all the way from Ang Mo Kio so have to make this trip worth it." He replied, "I also stay in Ang Mo Kio, next to AMK Hub." I asked, "Why did you not open a stall in Ang Mo Kio?" He said, "I am only a worker." He then asked, "Do you eat chicken feet?" I nodded. He placed a piece on the plate and said, "Give you eat". 

Everything was placed neatly on the tray and I bought it to the table. The next moment, I saw the Uncle walking quickly towards us. He said, "Sorry. I left out the char siew." He picked up the plate then walked away and came back in a bit. This time, the noodles were topped with slices of char siew, leafy greens. 

My dining companion took the first mouthful after tossed it well and said, "Not bad, quite nice actually." The noodles were slightly thicker and springier in the concoction of only chilli and ketchup that gave it a rather clean old school taste.

My dining companion that usually like the fried wanton, said, "I do not find the fried wanton to be nice. The skin was slightly too hard with very little filling." He added, "In fact, I find the soup ones to be nicer." He took a bite and shown it to me, said, "See! It has more of those well-seasoned filling. I could actually taste the white pepper and sesame oil in it." He also said, "The soup is light but flavorful."

Those wantons though smaller but quite plump. He continued to say, "Those slices of char siew are dry and quite tasteless." He picked up a piece of the fried lard and said, "This is tasty. I left the bigger piece there for you." 

Such a simple lunch can be quite enjoyable.

Block 112 Bishan Street 12 KF78 SINGAPORE
Operating Hours: 6.30 am to 2.30 pm (Closed on Thursdays)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

AMK Curry Puff : they are back to Ang Mo Kio

They are back. They are back to where they first started. Mr Leo Chin Sang, founder of the AMK Curry Puff was part of the team that started Tip Top Curry Puff in 1979 before incorporating the ABR Group. He went to start AMK Curry Puff in July 2013 at a coffee shop at Toa Payoh Central before passing away about 2 years ago. I talked to Mr Leo then but he did not really want to elaborate on what happened. The Tip Top Curry Puff has renamed to Tip Top The Puff Factory after the incorporation and has remained in the coffee shop before moving to occupy the corner shop at Jubilee Square recently. I wrote an article for Makansutra in 2014 on this.

I asked, "The stall at Toa Payoh still around?" That lady nodded and said, "This is our second outlet. We have just opened about a week ago." I said, "I was told that the elderly Uncle has already passed away." She replied, "He was my Uncle." I also said, "I grew up in Ang Mo Kio and I remember there used to be a group of Aunties making curry puffs here." She pointed to the side of the stall and said, "Yeah. Right there." 

She added, "We decided to come back to Ang Mo Kio when they moved out." She said, "Hope to see you again." I decided to order a Sardine Puff and a Curry Puff at $1.50 each. Those puffs are still handmade and serve fresh. 

The Curry Puff was a pure disappointment. I could not taste any chicken chunks in it, the filling that mainly consists of potato was not as packed, not fragrant and not spicy. The crust tasted a little too dry, lacking the distinctive butter taste with a different texture. 

The Sardine Puff was equally disappointing. I did not like the crust as well, the filling that consists bits of sardine and shredded onion was very little, enclosed in a thick crust. 

Something is just different, it is smaller in size at a higher price. It just used to be much better but not so now. It left me feeling disappointed. 

Block 722 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 SINGAPORE 560722
Operating Hours: 9.00 am to 8.00 pm