Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Matasoh Fishball & Meatball Mincemeat Noodle : handmade fishballs

Daddy Soh or Papa Soh, is the 2nd generation taking charge of this hawker stall. They used to be at Bedok North but closed in April 2019 before moving to the current location in August 2019. He has more than 40 years of experience in producing fishballs and fishcakes before deciding to bring the legacy of the fishballs noodle back. 

It was started by Grandma Soh. She was respectfully known as Mata Soh, literally means "Police Auntie" in Hokkien, partly based on her surname, which is Soh. She started selling the fishball noodles to bring up her 7 children single-handedly right after the end of the Japanese Occupation in the 1950s. The social disorder was a common scene at that time and there were disturbances such as taking the protection money from the street hawkers and shop owners by the gang members. Grandma Soh decided to liaise with the police officers for the much-needed protection to ensure the well-being of herself and the other hawkers. She has also won over the trust of many police officers by urging her fellow hawkers to follow the simple hygienic conditions as well as those simple rules. When her children were old enough, Daddy Soh and the others started to manage the stall at Geylang Lorong 25 as well as in making fishballs and fishcake 

This was one of the few stalls with a queue during lunch on a Sunday. I joined in and waited for a short while to order the Soh Special ($4.50/$5.50), listed as the number 1 item on their signboard. The menu also includes Huatiao Sesame Mee Sua Soup ($4/$5), Dry Noodle ($4/$5), Soup Noodle ($3/$4) and Fishball/Meatball Soup ($4/$5). I pointed to the plastic container placed together with the red-cut chilli and soy sauce, asked, "Those are fried lard?" The younger man replied, "Yeah. It is up to you to put all you want."

When I received my noodles, I added a ton of that crispy lard. The Soh Special is their newest addition, it is served with an onsen egg together with fishballs, meatballs, fishcake sliced meat, and minced meat. I broke the egg to mix it with the noodles and the chilli. The noodles were cooked well to the right texture and those bits of crispy lard actually enhanced the flavor. The odd-shaped fishballs were amongst the nicest that I have eaten, the texture was so soft and springy. The meatballs were equally good as fish meat was added for the desired bounciness. 

Block 90 Whampoa Drive #01-54 Whampoa Makan Place SINGAPORE 320090
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 9.00 pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Seletar Western Food : old-school Western food

The coffee shop is located at the Seletar Hill, amongst the row of shophouses along Jalan Selaseh. This Western food stall is a popular choice amongst the residents of this quiet estate. The usual waiting time during peak hours can be up to an hour. It is the corner stall at this quiet coffee shop and it has been around for about 20 years but the current owner is only at it for about 4 years after taking over from the original owner when they decided to retire. 

Most of the other stalls were already closed when we were there at about 5 pm on a weekday. When I was there to order, the uncle was serving an elderly customer that likely to be a regular. He went to where he seated to take his order. I waited for him to get back. I ordered Chicken Chop ($6) for myself and the Chicken Cutlet ($6.50) for my dining companion. I then pointed to the table right at the corner. We waited for about 15 minutes for it to be served. 

The Chicken Cutlet consists of a piece of deep-fried breaded chicken served with a bun, baked bean, fries, lettuce, and cucumber. My dining companion started with the bun. He said, "This one tasted better than its looks. Though they deep-fried but it was still soft and not greasy." He said after trying the chicken, "The seasoning is quite light thus it tasted a little bland." He continued to say, "Overall, it was okay."

The Chicken Chop was slightly charred though it did not taste crispy, it was served with the brown sauce and the same sides. I finished it even though it is not amongst the best that I had tasted. 

This is an interesting find in an old school coffee shop.

2 Jalan Selaseh SINGAPORE 808433
Operating Hours: 4.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Daily)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Xiao Di Fried Prawn Noodle : so so Fried Hokkien Mee

Terence Chee, 28, the owner, affectionately known as "Xiao Di", which means "little brother", a term used for small boy. He started this stall in a coffee shop at Serangoon North in 2013. There are 2 sizes for the Fried Hokkien Mee, the $4 and the $5 for selection. I decided to go with the $5 portion and was told that the waiting time is about 30 minutes. I was given a buzzer and about to walk away but the lady boss said in a slightly irritated tone, "I will need to collect the $5 first." I handed it to her and said, "Sorry. This is my first time here." Though there were not too many customers in the coffee shop at that time, the waiting time was still long as the Fried Hokkien Mee actually takes time to cook in batches.

For $5, it came with 3 pieces of prawns, sotong, strips of pork belly and crispy lard. The noodles were soaked in stock for flavor, this is the usual basis for a good plate of Fried Hokkien Mee. Though flavorful, it did not have much smoky flavor but it was nicely braised for a gooier texture. There was a slight eggy taste but the egg did not fry long enough to char it before adding into the stock. The chilli has a mild spiciness. 

My dining companion said, "Not bad. I expected it to be better though." I asked, "How is this comparable to Tian Tian Lai Hokkien Mee in Toa Payoh? Some said this is better." He replied, "Tian Tian Lai Hokkien Mee is definitely better, it is wetter and more flavorful."

There were many comments left on their Facebook page mainly about the encounter of bad attitude and lousy service. Apparently, cooking with a good amount of passion does make a difference but having a good attitude and coupled with positive customer service are equally important.

Block 153 Serangoon North Avenue 1 #01-512 Guan Hock Tiong Eating House Singapore 550153
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Pin Ji Fishball Minced Meat Noodles : a sincere bowl of noodles

Keith and Michelle, the owners, are the young couple behind this two-month-old stall. They used to be in the recruitment industry before starting this stall. The recipe is obtained from a childhood friend, and this same friend is also the supplier of those handmade fish dumplings, fishballs, and meatballs, using yellowtail fish to make them. 

There are 3 sizes for selection, the $3, the $4 and the $5 but only the $5 is served with the fish dumpling. I decided to go with the $5 portion and opted for dry mee pok. Michelle asked, "Do you want it with meatball or fishball as we have run out of fish dumpling." I replied, "Meatball then." Michelle actually made an effort to smile and looked at you when she was taking the order. When I was attempting to take out a tray from the stack of trays, She said, "Let me help you." When I was picking up the tray after Keith placed the bowl of noodles along with the bowl of soup on it. Michelle turned and said, "Thank you." And, that actually left an impression when compared to a not so pleasant encounter when ordering the popular Xiao Di Fried Hokkien Mee in the same coffee shop. 

My dining companion tried it first, he took a few mouthfuls and said, "This is quite good." I tried it and asked, "Does that remind you of Song Kee Fishball?" He replied, "A little. I find the taste of the meatballs to be quite familiar but could not actually recall where did I taste it." The noodles were nicely cooked and the texture of those fishballs is good, it has the desired springiness, different from those that are commercially mass-produced. The meatballs consist of pork and yellowtail fish paste and we liked it. The crispy lard and chilli are also handmade by them. 

The wait is slightly longer when I was there on a Sunday but the wait is quite worthwhile for this simple goodness. I could sense the high amount of passion and sincerity behind this bowl of noodles. 

Block 153 Serangoon North Avenue 1 #01-512 Guan Hock Tiong Eating House Singapore 550153
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 1.30 pm

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ah Seng Duck Rice : Kway Chap available at Serangoon Central stall only

Mr Ng Kim Seng, the founder, came up with a recipe on Teochew braised duck in 1965. He started the stall at Lim Tua Tow Market along Upper Serangoon Road. His children, Wendy Ng and Ng Teck Siah, helped out after their school, from taking orders, serving and learning the recipe. He moved the stall to Serangoon Garden Food Centre after the demolition of Lim Tua Tow Market. Wendy went to work as a Secretary and Teck Siah started a Satay stall but he decided to return when Mr Ng suffered a mild stroke. During the renovation of Serangoon Garden Food Centre, he moved the stall temporarily to a coffee shop in Serangoon Central in 2002. Wendy decided to take over this stall when it was time to move the main stall back to Serangoon Garden Food Centre.

There was no queue when I was there on a weekday but when I approached the stall, Wendy was there. She said, "15 minutes. Can you wait or not?" I ordered a set of Kway Chap and added a duck drumstick for $10.50. I waited. When a few minutes before the 15 minutes were up, I saw Wendy waving at me from a distance. I walked over to collect it.

The Kway Chap set came with nicely braised big intestine, braised egg, fish cake, braised tau pok and the braised duck that I added. The flat rice sheets were thin and smooth served with braising sauce then enhanced with fried shallots and coriander. The chilli is different, its level of spiciness is manageable with a hint of tanginess and enhanced by the garlic paste added to it. 

The other Ah Seng Duck Rice at Serangoon Garden Food Centre does not serve Kway Chap. 

Block 204 Serangoon Central #01-104 SINGAPORE 550204
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Shaker Lakers : East meets West

The stall is started by Gillian Pua, 43, a former technologist that used to be in the IT industry for more than 18 years. Her business partner is Michael Quinn, 42, an Irish national and a permanent resident in Singapore. He has been working in New York for more than 12 years and is married to a Singaporean. Both of them met at Marche at VivoCity. Michael was the Restaurant Manager then and Gillian was working there whilst in between jobs. They started talking about running a hawker stall for about 8 months before realizing it on 9 August 2019 after experimenting with the recipes. They decided on starting a hawker stall as it is an economical choice as compared to operating a cafe. The stall is based on the East meets West concept serving the Western and also the local dishes. They hope to create a new food concept using Asian flavors with Western cooking techniques. 

The main menu consists of Beef Burger ($7.50), Fish and Chips ($9) and Aglio Olio with Bacon and Mushroom ($7.50). There are also interesting choices like Lakers Chicken Merah with rice ($6.50), Hainanese Pork Chop with Rice and Egg ($6.30) and Sambal Prawn Linguine ($8). The prices are kept affordable and everything is made from scratch at the stall. 

I ordered Lakers Chicken Merah with rice for myself and Beef Burger for my dining companion. I was told to come back in 10 minutes for collection. 

Beef Burger consists of a thick patty with cheese, served together with tomato and lettuce, accompanied by potato wedges.  The barbeque sauce was served in a saucer and my dining companion assumed it was tomato sauce so he just left it alone. While eating his burger, he said, "The beef patty though thick and juicy but it did not have much taste." He only realized that saucer was barbeque sauce after he finished the burger, he said, "It should be tastier after added that in." 

He continued to say, "The best burger from a hawker stall is still those from Hammee's at Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre."

Lakers Chicken Merah is based on a Peranakan recipe from Gillian's family. It is a homely dish of simmering fried chicken in spicy tomato sauce. The sauce tasted more like the sambal chilli that is usually for the barbeque stingray and it was different from the usual Ayam Masak Merah. There was a subtle heat from the chillies but not much of sweet and sourish taste.

Interestingly, it was served with 2 pieces of ladyfinger coated in batter then deep-fried. The rice was slightly dry.

This is an interesting stall that is worth revisiting. There are other dishes listed under the "Chef Recommendation" on a standing whiteboard displayed in front of the stall. 

51 Yishun Avenue 11 #01-24 Yishun Park Hawker Centre SINGAPORE 768867
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.00 pm / 5.00 pm to 8.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Kim Kitchen Braised Duck : the owner is only 22 years old

Zip, 22, the owner, is running the stall with Jia Hui, 20, his girlfriend, and they actually look like 19 years old, much younger than their age. Marcus told me about this stall at Beo Crescent Food Centre, it is side by side with another duck rice stall. I said, "A friend told me about your stall. He said the stall is manned by a very young couple and I should come by to support." Zip looked up while cooking, looking very energetic and said, "Need to thank your friend then." He sounded high-spirited. 

I asked, "Did you bid for the stall?" He said, "We did not but took over from the previous owner." I said, "Is the rental high? should be around $2,000?" He nodded. I also asked, "How is the business so far?" He replied, "Still ok." I asked, "Who taught you how to cook?" He said, "My father did." Jia Hui giggled and said, "I came by to help out when there is a shortage of manpower initially but later on just continue to working here full-time." I asked, "You also serve Minced Pork Noodle? You are the first braised duck stall to serve this dish." He chuckled. 

I ordered Kway Chap and added Braised Duck for $7.50. When eating it, I find the taste to be quite familiar as it somewhat reminded me of the braised meat by Mr Lorbak. The overall taste was alright, though a little heavy on the use of five-spice powder and slightly saltish. This is not the best Kway Chap that I ever tasted but I could taste the passion behind it. I believe they would improve along the way if they persist. 

They are the youngest couple manning a hawker stall that I have ever met amongst the many others of different stalls. They reminded me of a saying in Chinese, which is 初生之犊不畏虎, this means "the newborn calf fears no tiger".  It is just so good to be young, to have plenty of time with a good amount of courage to keep trying and doing their part in preserving the hawker culture.  

Do drop by to support the young hawker if you happen to be in the vicinity for breakfast or lunch.

38A Beo Cresecent #01-82 Beo Cresecent Food Centre SINGAPORE 169982
Operating Hours: 6.00 am to 2.00 pm (Closed on Thursdays)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Ah Hoe Mee Pok : their new outlet in Ang Mo Kio

Eric Chia, the founder, just started this new stall in a coffee shop at Ang Mo Kio Central on 7 October 2019. I got to know about this from their Facebook. This will be the other outlet apart from their main one located near the Ayer Rajah Food Centre in West Coast Drive. He started a joint venture with some friends in 1999 and with Ah Guan Mee Pok later on before setting up Ah Hoe Mee Pok as his own brand in 2012 in the same coffee shop at Block 501 West Coast Drive before moving to Block 710 Clementi West after the change in ownership of that coffee shop. He was there for about 5 months before moving back to the same coffee shop again.

He taught a few peoples that were interested in this business and they had set up their own stalls with a different name. Amongst them is Mr Naoji Kuribara, a Japanese man. He worked as an apprentice for 6 months before closing his Japanese stall and took over the noodle stall in January 2015 under the same brand name but rebranded to Li Yuan Mee Pok later.

I was there for lunch on their second operation day. I asked, "This stall is not franchised?" The chap at the stall replied, "No. Ah Hoe was here earlier and he just left, went back to the other stall at West Coast Drive." I could not decide what to eat. I said, "I want it with braised mushroom." He replied, "Then, you should take the No 2 on the menu." It stated as Special Mushroom Mee Pok for $6, $8 and $10. I replied, "I will go for the $8 portion." The female assistant suggested I should go for $10 so there will be more ingredients. Some of the items on the menu are not available.

I paid with a $10 note but was given $2.50 as a change. I waited for a while to collect it. I noticed that there was no braised mushroom added to my mee pok. There were only 3 pieces of shell scallops and a few pieces of slices of canned king top. It was served along with a bowl of their special soup.

The first impression of this bowl of noodles was the portion is small and not too filling as compared to what I was served over at Li Yuan Mee Pok. I tossed the mee pok lightly with the chilli and the sauce, the taste did not quite stand out though the mee pok was nicely cooked to the desired texture. I prefer the $5 portion of Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle from Li Yuan Mee Pok to this. A good bowl of mee pok does not need premium ingredients to enhance its taste.

The soup consists of 2 pieces of Teochew dumplings, sliced meat, and cabbage. 

The flavor of the soup was quite light as compared to the one by Li Yuan Mee Pok, I did not quite enjoy it. The Teochew dumplings were much nicer though, the filling was nicely seasoned and not over peppery, encased in smooth and elastic skin.

I am not likely to go back soon as the overall taste is not quite memorable. I actually wonder is this their usual standard? The portion was not too filling. 

Block 721 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 Food Loft Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 560721
Operating Hours: 6.00 am to 9.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Big Prawn Noodle : a better Prawn Noodle in Ang Mo Kio

A friend on Facebook mentioned this particular stall in quite a remote part of Ang Mo Kio, serving prawn noodle in Ang Mo Kio. I went with my dining companion on a Monday for lunch. There were just another 2 customers in front of us at that time. Bryan, the owner, came from Tanjung Piandang, Malaysia. He started working in a mixed economic rice stall before starting this stall. 

We decided to order the smaller portion of Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle for $5, went for the dry and also the soup option. There is a larger portion for $6. For $5, each bowl is served with 3 pieces of halved average-sized prawn and 3 pieces of pork ribs then topped with fried shallots, served with bean sprouts and kang kong. The prawns tasted relatively fresh. The chill though looked fiery, it was not spicy as expected. 

My dining companion said, "It tasted as good as Joo Chiat Prawn Mee at Ayer Rajah Food Centre, more value for money too." This is definitely better than the once-popular Sumo Big Prawn at AMK 628 Food Centre. 

We went back the second time within a week. After trying the dry and the soup prawn mee, my dining companion said, "I actually prefer the dry one more." I enjoyed the soup one a bit more though. I would think the soup is pretty good, it has an intensified prawn flavor with a slightly sweet taste. It did not taste as good when I was there for the second time. 

This is easier one of the better Prawn Noodles in Ang Mo Kio. I took notice that the coffee shop is usually quiet even during lunchtime. 

Block 443 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 AMK 443 Eating House SINGAPORE 560443
Operating Hours: 6.00 am to 8.00 pm

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Ashes Burnnit : a new muslim-owned burger joint

Lee Syafiq, 26, the owner, started this burger joint on 16 September 2019, taken over the stall where Burgs by Project Warung used to be. He is the co-founder of Burgs by Project Warung, a local burger brand that he started 3 years ago with 2 partners. He used to work for Terra Tokyo Italian, one Michelin-starred restaurant and he met one of his partners there. Syafiq was there to take my order. I asked, "What do you recommend?" He replied, "Do you eat beef? if yes, you might want to try the Truffle Mushroom Burger. If not, the Best of Both World Burger to try everything."  I decided to order Fried Chicken Burger and the Best of Both World Burger. He asked, "Single or double patties?" I said, "Single for the Fried Chicken Burger and double for the Best of Both World Burger". 

While waiting to pay, I asked him, "Is this stall related to the previous one?" I continued to say, "I saw the announcement of the Facebook page of Burgs." He replied, "I am one of the co-founders of Burg. " He also said, "We ever tried to launch a different menu when running Burgs but it caused confusion to our customers. That is the reason we set up this stall to differentiate from them." He said, "We are different team but under the same owner." Nonetheless, a post was issued by Burgs by Project Warung on their Facebook page, claimed that they have ceased operation at Golden Mile Food Centre and they are not affiliated with the current stall. What exactly is going on? Theoretically, it was right to say that it is a different team but the same owner as he co-founded Burgs. 

A buzzer was given after paying up and it buzzed in just a while. Both burgers are served with fries. The Best of Both World Burger is $9.00 for the single patty and $11.50 for double patties. It consists of 2 handcrafted beef patties, smoked turkey bacon, parmesan mozzarella cheese that is added to the mac n cheese as described on their menu board. 

I felt the beef patties were a bit too dry and not as flavorful. It is a unique creation but it did not taste too special and not quite memorable. I did not like charcoal buns, the texture was not fluffy enough and a little too dry.

My dining companion said, "The texture of fries is crispy but it did not seem to have much taste. The mac n cheese also did not have much cheese taste." 

The Fried Chicken Burger is $5.90 for the single patty and $7.90 for the double patties. The burger consists of a piece of fried chicken as patty served with sriracha mayonnaise and lettuce. 

My dining companion said, 'It is the sauce that makes it special, other than it is just a normal Fried Chicken Burger that did not quite stand out."

There are other interesting burgers on the menu, like Ashes Smash Cheese Burger, Truffle Mushroom Burger, and Grilled Chicken Burger as well as the Froissant, icecream-filled croissant to try.

505 Beach Road #B1-24 Golden Mile Food Centre SINGAPORE
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 8.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Friday, October 4, 2019

多记 驰名猪肠粉 芋头糕 : the popular breakfast choice

It was sold out when I was there for the first time, the last customer bought the last portion right before me at 10.30 am. It was also sold out when I was there for the second time at 10.05 am, the light of the signboard was already off. The third time, I managed to reach there at 9.30 am. I saw from afar that the light of signboard was on. I got excited as that was a good sign. I walked a little faster and there was just another customer in front. The third time is the charm and it is really third time lucky. This stall has been around since the 1970s. 

I joined in and queue, waited patiently. When it was my turn to order, I said, "$2 Chee Cheong Fun and $2 Yam Cake." The lady replied, "The Yam Cake has finished." And, I said, "$3 Chee Cheong Fun then. Eating here." She asked, "With everything?" I smiled and nodded. She handed me the disposable plate with my Chee Cheong Fun and a pair of disposable chopsticks. 

I could not wait and took a picture of the Chee Cheong Fun then sent it to my dining companion on Line. He replied, "Finally get to eat. Nice or not?" I replied, "Nice!" The rice flour rolls were cut into pieces using a scissor in a fast motion then served in a pool of sweet sauce then drizzled with chilli sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. They do not make those Chee Cheong Fun but got them from a supplier. Though factory-made, it was soft and did not taste like it. Such an old school taste is just so delightful and it left me feeling happy.

多记 驰名猪肠粉 芋头糕 
335 Smith Street #02-216 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 7.00 am till sold out (Closed on Mondays & Wednesdays)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Leong Yeow : the famous Waterloo Street Hainanse Chicken Rice

This chicken rice that has been around for more than 4 decades might not be listed in the Bib Gourmand and it might not be the best chicken rice but it is a personal favorite. It has been handed down from the mother to the son. And, I have been eating there for more than a decade. I was there often for lunch when I worked temporarily near there. Though I do not get to eat it often these days, I will still make an effort to drop by whenever I am in the vicinity.

I was excited when there was no queue at 11.40 pm on a weekday as the queue is usually long during lunch or even after lunch. The queue started to form when I finished and about to leave. The mother, who is likely to be in her 80s, was there. She took my order, I wanted the mixture of poached and roasted chicken with rice. She asked, "For 1 person?" I nodded my head. She said, "That will be $6." 

The poached and the roasted chicken are equally good though I prefer the latter a little more. The rice is grainy with a light fragrance of chicken stock and not too greasy. The chilli is spicy, not quite diluted with a slight garlicky taste. The portion is good and not "slightly insufficient for its price" as described in a certain blog.

This is, in my humble opinion, better than the other chicken rice that is listed in the Bib Gourmand. It is my comfort food. This is one of the affordable choices if you happen to be near City Hall MRT or Dhoby Ghaut MRT. 

Block 261 Waterloo Street SINGAPORE 180261
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 8.30 pm